Immigration = Educational Collapse

February 13th, 2010 at 10:39 am David Frum | 15 Comments |

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Matt Yglesias posts a chart from the Economic Report of the President showing that improvements in educational attainment have slowed for children born after 1970 and stagnated for those born after 1990.

The most obvious explanation for this change: immigration. Unlike Canada and Australia, which emphasize highly skilled migrants, U.S. immigration policy is skewed in favor of the very low-skilled. Unsurprisingly, the children of the low-skilled do poorly in school. More surprisingly: so do the grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

I’m not saying this is an unfixable problem. With enough money and time, you can fix anything. The question is: Why choose this particular problem when you don’t have to – and when it distracts from so many other problems over which we have no choice?

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15 Comments so far ↓

  • Newbigtech

    No Amnesty, We need a border fence, more border patrol, and a few more Sheriff’s like Joe Arpaio.

    He seems to be one of the few law enforcement people that understand their position.

    Won’t get fooled again in 2010

  • sinz54

    Recent immigrants represent only a small minority of Americans.

    Here’s the REAL reason why educational attainment is stagnating: The cost of college tuition is by far the fastest rising cost in the Consumer Price Index’s basket of goods and services. The cost of college tuition is rising even faster than the cost of health care:

    From 1978 to today, the cost of college tuition has risen by an amazing 800%, while the CPI has risen 300%. College education and especially postgraduate school is becoming less affordable.

    Part of this is due to immigration, all right–but not the kind of immigration Frum is talking about.

    The cost of college tuition has been bid up in part by all those foreign students, subsidized by their own countries’ governments, coming here on visas to study in OUR universities.

    American parents had partly finessed this increase, by going deeper into debt with home equity lines of credit and the like. But now, with the financial crisis, that isn’t going to be as easy to do anymore.

  • mlloyd

    I blame disco, hip-hop, steroids in baseball, and the decline in interest in the career of Joe Piscopo.

    I mean, if we’re just going to make stuff up without any supporting evidence whatsoever, why not go all out.

  • ferruccio

    Low-skilled immigration (including much illegal immigration) definitely suits some interest groups — I’m thinking of agribusiness (quite a political force in many of California’s inland counties — and actually a Republican counterweight to the general Democrat dominance in CA’s coastal areas — but I’m sure other agricultural interests have a similar need for super-cheap, low-skilled, seasonal labor) and various business groups such as hotels and restaurants, cleaning services, slaughterhouses, etc.

    The unskilled American workers threatened by such cheap labor competition are generally marginalized in American politics (they have no money, low rates of voting and other political participation, no strong organization), so it’s unsurprising that agribusiness’s interests &c have long been catered to (under guise of whatever rhetoric, or just nod-and-wink general tolerance).

    High-skilled immigration would have strong benefits for the economy at large (residential market, CA and Fed tax base, entrepreneurship, etc) as well as for some interest groups (high-tech firms, for example), but the groups threatened by _that_ competition tend to also be politically strong — professional workers and their organizations, in particular — so the politics of the issue end up being more balanced (e.g., H1B visas do exist, but are limited to numbers well below the demand [[in most years: even in 2009 the quota was reached, though late in the year -- in normal years the quota was filled in a couple days!-), and the pragmatics are skewed wrt low-skilled immigration (a well-paid professional will obviously be way more reluctant to follow an illegal-immigration path than a desperate low-skilled worker -- the former has something to lose, the latter doesn't).

    I don't know how Australia or Canada, which have strong unions and professional organizations too, managed to strong-arm resistance against high-skilled immigration (I've heard of a recent populist backlash in Australia against [[high-skilled]] Indians, in particular, who used to flock in large numbers to post-grad education there but are now rethinking the matter — they’re still officially welcomed, but the number of beatings and murders against them is soaring… I don’t know what’s behind THAT either, though — surely it’s not the doctors, lawyers and engineers threatened by such competition who are going out at night to slash tires or beat up such high-skilled immigrants…?).

  • kevin47


    “The cost of college tuition has been bid up in part by all those foreign students, subsidized by their own countries’ governments, coming here on visas to study in OUR universities.”

    That’s a small part of it. Moreso, universities have lowered their standards to attract more students. Loan programs encourage students to make college decisions independent of the ability to pay.

    What drives students to universities? Not rigorous academics, that’s for sure. It’s big name professors, fun-sounding courses, expensive facilities and solid branding. So, with exception of maybe 70-80 schools, our system of colleges and universities is being dumbed down and gussied up at the same time.

    The impact on secondary education is obvious. Students don’t want an education. They want grades so they can go to college. Schools want to send kids to college. So we have a whole system set about preparing kids to go to pretty buildings with great branding.


    Countries like Australia can appeal to their own national identity without the sort of uproar that occurs here. Politicians of neither stripe stand to benefit by expanding immigration, whereas immigrants have gained such a foothold here that they represent a major voting bloc. With amnesty, Democrats see the opportunity to add millions of votes to their coffers.

  • Vic

    Mr. Frum,

    I can’t believe that you have become part of the choir. You keep blaming everything on these people but the truth is not that, and you know it.
    The idea that 10.8 million people can destroy anything in a country of 300 million is just stupid. These 11 million can’t vote, don’t have economic power, don’t have political power. Where are the other 290 million, what are they doing?
    Where were them before the financial breakdown? Where is all this people when China is the biggest competitor?
    I’ll tell you.
    The biggest problem that this country has is it’s people. They are so entitled that they don’t even try, don’t want to compete. And blaming the “illegals” it only highligts the lack of will.
    Many, if not most, are like a spoiled child that believe the the world rotates around him and everything is his.
    And if you want to talk about schools, the problem are not those kids or any kid. It is the way that “we” don’t want to trumatize them. I they don’t want to work, no problem. And belive me I’m not advocating a harsh treatment of the kids, but they still have to perform, and down the road when they realize that the world is no what the believed they become angry and become tea partiers. I don’t blame them somebody lied to them, but the illegals had nothing to do with it. I’m certain of this.
    You have a moral resposability bigger than most of the people. You represent a powerful voice in this country, a voice that claims knowledge. Why don’t you use it for the benefit of all people not just the group that you belong to.
    Last, I read your posts on your trip to Argentina and Venezuela and I have a couple of comments.
    On Argentina: Who do you think you are or what moral base do you have to tell them how big the memorial for the jewish victims should be. You are advocating to do nothing for the minorities of this country.
    On Venezuela: Didn’t you bite your tong when you lectured Venezuela on what they should do. Chavez is following the playbook that the administration you worked for masterfully played.

  • jakester

    I am all in favor of corraling and stopping the illegals, but I am not dumping this problem in their laps. We are suffering a collapse, in some areas, because we have a large population of people who don’t care and many administrators and pedagogues who are totally incompetent or worse. With free libraries, mountains of books, free education and almost free internet all but universal now, it’s a cultural of ignorance that is holding us back whether it’s urban America or small town Wasila.

  • sinz54

    kevin47: What drives students to universities? Not rigorous academics, that’s for sure. It’s big name professors, fun-sounding courses, expensive facilities and solid branding.
    No it’s not.

    It’s desperation. Today, a college degree is the only way to prevent poverty.
    Due to the disappearance of jobs that don’t require a college degree.

    It’s now gotten to the point that you can’t even become a secretary–oops, “administrative assistant”–without at least some college. And that, in turn, is due to the increasingly high-tech nature of the job. It’s no longer just filing, typing, and answering phone calls. It’s Web surfing and preparing artistic looking presentations with PowerPoint and document production.

    I used to work for a large corporation that used to have an entire department of graphic artists and document publishers. Once the personal computer with Microsoft Office came along, they laid off all those artists and publishers and gave those jobs to the secretaries to do with Microsoft Office.

    But beyond that, it’s due to the loss of manufacturing jobs in this country. That’s NOT due entirely to foreign competition–manufacturing output has not declined–it’s also due to automation.

    60 years ago, one-third of the U.S. work force was in manufacturing. Today it’s just 10% and still declining.

    Time was when a man with just a high school diploma (or maybe even a college dropout) could find a decent job in manufacturing. Not any more. More and more manufacturing is done by robots and automated assembly lines.

  • Brittanicus

    Its imperative that–YOU–don’t let your state fall into the same financial quagmire, as the illegal alien SANCTUARY STATE OF CALIFORNIA. E-Verify, the foreign labor removal system has been ignored by the Sacramento assembly, because they have been overwhelmed by corporate lobbyists. The payoff is large campaign contributions and likely undisclosed cash gifts. This is why California has been in political turmoil for years, unable to pass any worthwhile legislations. California is America’s largest population of illegal immigrants, and likely illegal voters as there is no true ID oversight to who votes? California bears a huge cost to provide basic human services for this fast growing, low-income segment of its population. NumbersUSA website indicates 43 percent of all illegal aliens live in California as of 2006. According to U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (CIS), an estimated 2,209,000 illegal immigrants resided in California in 2000, up from 1,476,000 in 1990. More than 66% of all births in California are to illegal aliens from South of the border on Medi-Cal and CalWorks. 40% of all workers in L.A. County ( L.A. County has 10.2 million people) are working for cash and not paying taxes.

    This was because they are predominantly illegal immigrants, visa over-stayers border jumpers are working without papers or with fraudulent documents, drivers licenses or Social Security Numbers. E-Verify should be mandated by Homeland Security and ICE in California, no longer as a preference to parasite business.Every business within thew state should be forced to use E-Verify, with appropriate severe punishments. E-Verify must be a countrywide law, not at the whim of company owners. GOT A PROBLEM WITH YOUR STATUS, GO TO THE SOCIAL SECURITY OFFICE FOR JOB CLEARANCE. Instead of underfunding National Security as Obama has done, this should be of the highest priority. Eventually terrorists will slip across the perforated border, if they are not already planning deadly attacks inside cities now. We cannot as a country be dictated to by corrupt politicians, because of the exaggerated need for cheap labor. Before ICE raids were compromised by Janet Napolitano and the open border fanatics, hundreds of real Americans lined-up for jobs, we have been indoctrinated in the old, tired statement, “Jobs that Americans wont do..? ” Its been a conspiracy from the start by open border extremists, through three presidents that we have secured our borders, when laws have been derailed. Including the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act that to this day has never been enforced.

    Well after watching American Indians recruited by the US Border Agency, to patrol their own land. That the border is still wide open, to drug traffickers, gun runners, heinous criminals and large groups of illegal aliens crossing each day. American Patrol, a resilient pro-sovereignty group has proved beyond a shadow of doubt that–THE BORDER IS FAR FROM SECURE. Amazed that Napolitano would lie to Congress, because what I have seen along the international border is neglected stretches of simple rusty barbed wire. I am amazed with such a few BP officers, covering massive areas of open land manage to capture the amount of elicit drugs and illegal aliens that they do. Nothing could be far from the truth, that even the millions of dollars spent on border, does not represent the original conception of Rep. Duncan Hunter’s two layered fencing. You will–NEVER–find the truth in the Liberal Press, such as Los Angeles Times or the New York Times. We have been lied to? Unless we are willing to drive to the border and observe the fencing, the American Public will remain completely ignorant.

    Key findings in a report by Judicial Watch, that the state’s already struggling K-12 education system spends approximately $7.7 billion a year to school the children of illegal aliens who now constitute 15 percent of the student body. Another $1.4 billion of the taxpayers’ money goes toward providing health care to illegal aliens and their families, the same amount that is spent incarcerating illegal aliens criminals. Stated Dan Stein, President of FAIR. “California’s addiction to ‘cheap’ illegal alien laborers and their extended families has near bankrupted the state and posing enormous burdens on the state’s shrinking middle class tax base,” Californians, who have seen their taxes increase while public services deteriorate, already know the impact that mass illegal immigration is having on their neighborhoods, but even they may be alarmed when they learn just how much of a drain illegal immigration has become.

    California was subsidizing illegal immigrants to the tune of about $1.1 billion (1994) annually. Intentional US population numbers have been sterile for years, because our government doesn’t want–THE PEOPLE–to know the truth? A large percentage of foreign women have deliberately illegally entered our nation, to deliver their babies. Our overwhelmed welfare system has attributed to highest number of pregnant women, receiving free natal treatment for “Anchor Baby Children. The enormous rise in the costs of illegal immigrants over the intervening eighteen years, is due to the rapid growth in illegal settlement. It is reasonable to expect those costs to continue to rise if action is not taken to turn the immigration tide.” In 1994 was the year that California voters rebelled and overwhelmingly passed Proposition 187, which sought to limit liability for mass illegal immigration. As I have mentioned before, that the 187 law was intentionally engineered to terminate its course, to the highest court in the land where its constitutionality could have been proved.

    Since then, state and local liberal majority assembly have blatantly ignored the wishes of the angry voters and continued to shell out publicly financed benefits on illegal families. The costs of illegal immigration have grown demographically across this nation, while border states has spiraled into a fiscal catastrophe that has brought many to the edge of bankruptcy. Nothing could more starkly illustrate the very high costs of ‘cheap labor’ than the SANCTUARY STATE of California’s current unresolved situation. Numerous numbers of powerful special interests in the state reap profits, while the average indigenous-born family in California gets handed a nearly $2.000 a year bill with more to come?

    Learn more from NUMBERSUSA, JUDICIAL WATCH about the corruption in California’s Capitol, the open border lobbyists, the illegal immigration occupation, welfare expenditures, pandering politicians such as Sen.Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi. Secret talks on a trillion dollar AMNESTY. Read how HSC Nopolitano has suppressed 287 (G) local and state police training programs to detain illegal immigrants and complicity in stalling ICE raids and starving the Immigration & customs Enforcement needed extra funding, while awarding ACORN , $3.5 million dollars, a staunch ally of the illegal alien invasion. Turn the tables and demand more enforcement from your state and Federal representatives at 202-224-3121

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  • JonF


    Sorry, but I find it absolutely unacceptable that, as an American citizen, I should ever have to ask the permission of some bureaucrat to work to support myself. I’m OK with showing proper ID to prove who I am; but never with needing to be “cleared” by some paper-pusher (even if he is a very good and competent and efficient pusher of papers). This sort of thing is more appropriate for Communists. Joe Stalin no doubt would approve.

  • Cforchange

    Imigration is not even close the total blame – mostly it’s the economy. Read the Atlantic article regarding the New Jobless era that I’ve emailed. And as I’ve described or ranted about before – some parts of our culture are in total collapse. America will be a disgusting place if we don’t coral the workforce back to civility. They’re joining the underground where the opportunities are endless and you don’t ever have to worry about filing tax returns or managing a checking accounts.

    Not only is it the economy – it’s the 24/7 texting, googling, myfacing chattering teen trend. They hear nothing, they stay focussed for half a second. They can’t stay on task – they can multi task many idiotic irrelevant tasks but learn and complete something complex – forget it. So not only will we rely on mainly foreign educated doctors and engineers – we may need to rely on box dinners cause these kids will hardly be able to assemble a meal if parents don’t intervene and stop this awful trend.

  • Professor8

    I agree with JonF, “I find it absolutely unacceptable that, as an American citizen, I should ever have to ask the permission of some bureaucrat to work to support myself.”

    The education and immigration problems are more obviously connected. From 1986 to 1990, the NSF lobbied for more student visas to be issued and the creation of the H-1B visa, making unfounded claims of future “short-falls”, because they wanted to drive down pay for people with PhDs, knowing full well that it would drive US citizens out of affected fields once the costs of obtaining those degrees dropped below the long-term compensation: “A growing influx of foreign PhDs into U.S. labor markets will hold down the level of PhD salaries to the extent that foreign students are attracted to U.S. doctoral programs as a way of immigrating to the U.S.A. A related point is that for this group the PhD salary premium is much higher [than it is for Americans], because it is based on BS-level pay in students’ home nations versus PhD-level pay in the U.S.A… [If] doctoral studies are failing to appeal to a large (or growing) percentage of the best citizen baccalaureates, then a key issue is pay… A number of [the Americans] will select alternative career paths… For these baccalaureates, the effective premium for acquiring a PhD may actually be negative.”

    But there never was any shortage of bright US citizen STEM workers. Some studies (from Computing Research Association (CRA), Duke, Georgetown University, Harvard, RAND Corporation, Rochester Institute of Technology, Rutgers, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, Stanford, UC Davis, UPenn Wharton School, and Urban Institute) have indicated that for a long time we’ve been producing about 3 times as many STEM workers as have been able to land jobs in the relevant fields. The body shopping has extended to the universities themselves, as the proportion of tenured full professors to assistant profs and adjuncts and post-docs has decreased.

    Meanwhile, prices for texts and materials, for tuition and fees, and for university executives have soared faster than the general retail price levels.

  • Professor8

    And those guest-workers don’t approach the quality of US workers: “Dozens of employers asked to compare American engineers to their much-vaunted colleagues from India and [Red China] agreed that ‘in education, training, quality of work, you name it, in every which way, Americans are better’. Even the best schools in those countries ‘don’t hold a candle to our best schools.’, [former cross-border body shopper Vivek Wadhwa] continues. Newly hired American university graduates ‘become productive within 30 days or so. If you hire a graduate of an Indian university, it takes between 3 and 6 months for them to become productive.’”

    87% of the job openings that were filled under the H-1B program were for entry-level positions that require only a ‘good understanding of the occupation’. Employers who used the Department of Labor’s skill-based prevailing wage system classified most workers (56%) as being at the lowest skill level as did most State Employment Security Agency (SESA) wage determinations (57%), according to the Department of Labor these represent “internships” or “workers in training”. Either “these workers aren’t contributing substantially to America’s ability to innovate and compete, or… employers are deliberately under-stating workers’ skills in order to justify paying them less.”, wrote Computer Science professor Norman Matloff of UC Davis.

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