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2003 June 22 Sunday
Illegal Immigration Drives Up Number Of Medically Uninsured

Bruce Crawford argues that the high percentage of illegal immigrants with few skills and with less than a high school education is driving down wages among the poorest sector of society while driving up the number of people who have no medical insurance.

It is true since 1989 the national population without health insurance has grown by 7.8 million to 41.2 million in 2001. This is almost exactly the incease in the number of illegals in the U.S. When one counts both immigrants and children born to them, over 95 percent of the increase in uninsureds is the result of immigration, more than half of which (by some estimates, 70 percent) is attributable to illegal immigration.

This is a plausible argument. The level of uninsured among the Hispanic population in the United States is much higher than that of other ethnic and racial groups.

In early 2001, 16.7 percent of the U.S. civilian noninstitutionalized population (45.9 million people) were uninsured and 18.8 percent (45.7 million people) of these Americans under the age of 65 were uninsured (data not shown). Age plays a key role in whether a person has health insurance coverage. Young adults ages 19-24, 33.9 percent of whom were uninsured, were the age group at the greatest risk of being uninsured (Figure 1). This group composed 9.4 percent of the total non-elderly population but 16.8 percent of the uninsured population (data not shown). For children (age less than 18) 14.5 percent were uninsured, 62.4 percent had private insurance and the remainder (23.1 percent) had public insurance only. This compares to 13.9, 64.1, and 22.0 percent respectively for 2000 (data not shown). For children, estimates between the two years are not significant.

Among people under age 65, minorities were substantially more likely than whites to lack health insurance. For all Hispanics under 65, 37.7 percent were uninsured, compared to 20.2 percent of black non-Hispanics and 14.9 percent of white non-Hispanics (Figure 2). Although 68.4 percent of non-elderly Americans were white non-Hispanics, they accounted for only 54.3 percent of uninsured persons (Figure 3). Among males under age 65 (Figure 4), being uninsured was more likely among Hispanics (39.9 percent) than among black non-Hispanics (21.3 percent) or white non-Hispanics (15.7 percent). Similarly, among females under 65, being uninsured was more likely among Hispanics (35.5 percent) than among black non-Hispanics (19.2 percent) or white non-Hispanics (14.2 percent).

Persons who never married accounted for nearly a quarter (23.2 percent) of the non-elderly population but over a third (35.3 percent) of the uninsured population (data not shown). Also, about a third (32.3 percent) of all persons under 65 who were separated were uninsured (Figure 5).

Crawford argues that the support for the "living wage" political movement is coming about as a result of immigration driving down wages among the low-skilled people who are already here as citizens. Immigrants compete for jobs with poor folks and drive their wages down even further. It is not surprising that all those who have low and stagnant wages would be supportive of efforts to guarantee them higher wages.

Immigration, both legal and illegal, is driving the country as whole politically leftward because it is increasing the number of people who are medically uninsured and earning very low wages. Impoverished people are far more likely to support increased entitlements spending for their benefit. The problem is not just that the low-skilled immigrants can not earn much or get jobs that have good benefits. These immigrants drive down the wages of the poor people who are already here because they compete for jobs with those people. Therefore, the US population of effectively lower class people is increasing as a result of immigration.

The poor immigrants from Mexico are not catching up.

For example, while Mexican immigrants and their young children comprise 4.2 percent of the nationís total population, they comprise 10.2 percent of all persons in poverty. They also comprise 12.5 percent of those without health insurance. Perhaps most troubling, the findings show that the welfare use, income, and other measures of socio-economic status of legal Mexican immigrants do not converge with natives over time. Legal Mexican immigrants who have lived in the United States for many years do not enjoy a standard of living similar to that of natives.

Read more on the cost of low skilled immigrants.

If America adopted an immigration policy that effectively only allowed in highly skilled workers then the political, social, and economic costs of immigration could be reduced so far that those who immigrated would be a large net benefit to the country. Here are some policy changes that would make US immigration policy more beneficial to the nation:

Illegal immigration could be reduced by orders of magnitude if the federal government got serious about it. The average skill level and success of legal immigrants could be raised dramatically as well.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2003 June 22 02:40 AM  Immigration Economics


Comments
Don Marshall said at June 22, 2003 9:25 AM:

I concure.
Even though we hear a lot about it, immigtation laws are NOT being enforced despite the terroist threat.
California tried to stop this several times but the Mexican politians is Sacrament put a stop to it.
Maybe our new INS leader will improve the situation!

AMac said at June 22, 2003 9:30 PM:

Yes to the supply-side points you make.

What about demand-side...there are so many "good" sub-minimum-wage jobs in the US because there are so many potential employers. From the employer's point of view, the upside (money saved) is significant and probable, the downside (fines) aren't that awful and are pretty unlikely.

Randall Parker said at June 22, 2003 10:31 PM:

There are so many low wage jobs because there are plenty of people who are willing to work for low wages. There is not a fixed demand for each kind of worker. Increase the supply of a particular kind of worker and the price that kind of worker can demand will drop and at the lower price there will be greater demand.

Our problem is that the price that the employers pay for a worker represent just one portion of the total cost for that worker. If he has kids and they need schooling we pay. If he can't afford to pay for their medical care then, again, we pay. And so on.

Jason Spotts said at July 28, 2003 12:10 PM:

Legal and illegal immigration in America is a serious problem. Within the United States,we add a city the size of San Francisco every year due to immigration. I feel this has gotten out of control and this is an issue that needs to be addressed. Both political parties (Republicans and Democrats) do not have the backbone to address this issue. Even third political parties do not address this issue. America is not the same place is was 100, 50, or even 25 years ago. These are different times and we need political leaders whom will stop being spineless about this issue. This catering to foreign nationals within our country must stop NOW. Mass immigration deprives native born American citizens of decent paying jobs, affordable healthcare, affordable an decent housing, and is a strain on this country's financial resources. Forget what academia says about the benfits of immigration!! Look around you and see reality. Immigration in uncontrolled numbers is a disaster for the United States!! Therefore, I say we need to put a moritorium (ban) on immigration for 5 to 10 ten years. This means no more immigrants comming to America during this time. Then we need to let only and only 100,000 immigrate to this country a year whom are highly skilled and are able to support themselves. This will reduce the finacial burden our country faces every year in accomadating these people.

eric said at February 13, 2004 8:28 AM:

No doubt, the U.S. is a nation of diversity and an opportunity to worldwide immigrants. The main mechanism behind the nation's prosperity was immigrants, and this mechanism will not change in the future. Unfortunately, the mass number of illegal immigrants had recently emerged to be the main problems of the nation's economic burdens, and it is the most difficult to control and regulate due to political manners. Nevertheless, we must enforce a strict limition on the qualtiy and quantity of legal immigrants, and send those illegal immigrants back to their countries.

magi said at March 3, 2004 1:13 PM:

I CAME TO AMERICA 24 YEARS AGO FROM ISRAEL, I GOT MARRIRED HERE AND HAVE 2 KIDS.
I AM AN AMERICAN CITIZEN FOR 18 YEARS.
I NEVER HEARD IN MY LIFE ABOUT ANY COUNRY IN THE WORLD, AND PLEASE IF YOU FIND ONE LET ME KNOW..... THAT LET ILLEGAL CITIZEN KIDS FREE HEALTHCARE INSURANCE, WELL I GUESS USA IS SO RICH AND THE CITIZEN HERE ARE SO WELL OFF OTHER COUNTRY.. IN ALL AREAS THAT THEY CAN GIVE OTHER FREE HEALTH CARE..... OH BOY.. IF THE WORLD WILL KNOW HOW MANY POOR AMERICAN KIDS WALK TO SCHOOL WITHOUT BREAKFAST, HOW MANY MOTHERS DON'T HAVE MONEY FOR MEDICIN.... AND THEY ARE AMERICAN CITIZEN.
PLEASE LET'S NOT BE STUPID AND TOO NICE.... LET'S CARE FIRST TO OUR OWN CHILDREN BEFORE OTHERS. IF IN THE END OF THE YEAR WE WILL HAVE EXTRA THAT WILL BE WONDERFULL. LETS HELP OTHER THEN.
I WONDER IF WE WENT TO MEXICO WE WILL GET FREE MEDICAL INSURANCE'' EDUCATION ETC........ OR FRACE GERMANY HOLAND ISREAL......... NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

john s bolton said at April 6, 2004 11:29 PM:

How awful it would be if we nationalized the doctor's practices (without compensation) just to take care of the third world immigrants brought in illegally or on an anti-merit basis. How have such elements become such sacred cows that we would immolate our most productive citizens (e.g. the physicians now vulnerable to socialized medicine) in order that free preventive care might be just given to anyone who drifts in with gross needs. Rewarding weakness and failure while punishing success and competence is not a rational policy. Then they say it is only the selfishness of the majority that would not do whatever is necessary to take care of the needy from everywhere. The majority are right not to want to save all these people by means of aggression; it is traitorous for the government to try to push us down towards the standards of central america. Yet the pro-diversity maintain that it is our duty to become more like the third world. Setting racial and ethnic groups into conflict has become the central pattern of politics; the greater the intercommunal conflict, the greater the chance for officials to set up a despotism.

Evil Fluffy said at July 8, 2004 7:36 PM:

Uhhhh...part of what I hate Magi is exhibiting... being in this country for many years, but still not having a true grasp on the English language. If you love a country enough to move to it and expect to live and work here, then the least you can do is show respect, and that means assimilating into that country's customs and ways, one of which in America is speaking English -- PROPERLY. Take a night class or do whatever must be done, but to not learn is to be very disrespectful of the country. The Cubans down here in Miami are the worst I've *EVER* seen.

chakir brahim said at March 25, 2005 1:50 PM:

dear sirs
thank you very much for this oportunity , I want to visite holand because I like this contry .


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