NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Have Immigrants Become a Permanent Underclass?

December 3, 2002

Immigrants to the U.S. tend to arrive poor and stay in poverty for a longer time than people who were born here and grew up in poverty, according to an analysis of census data by the Center for Immigration Studies.

  • Despite the seven amnesties for illegal immigrants passed by Congress since 1986, more than 40 percent of immigrants live at or near poverty -- compared with 30 percent of natives.
  • Half of all immigrants come from Latin America, while about a quarter come from Asia, and 14 percent from Europe -- with Middle Easterners making up about 3 percent.
  • Immigrants who came here in the 1980s are only slightly less likely to qualify for the earned income tax credit -- which is an indication of low income -- than those who came here in the 1990s.
  • Over 30 percent of immigrants lack a high school education -- and experts report that they are almost entirely responsible for the increase in the number of those without health insurance.

Labor studies have shown that newly-arrived illegals compete for jobs with established immigrants, effectively holding down wages.

Looking back to the heyday of immigration earlier in this century, some analysts estimate than it took unskilled immigrant families 70 years to reach the living-standard levels of native-born families.

Such rates suggest that new arrivals are becoming a nearly permanent underclass.

Source: Brian Mitchell, "New Immigrants Arrive Poor -- and Stay That Way Longer," Investor's Business Daily, December 2, 2002.

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