2004 July 27 Tuesday
Black Male Labor Market Participation Declines In Face Of Immigrant Influx

Andrew Sum, a professor of economics and director of the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University, is lead author on a new report “Trends in Black Male Joblessness and Year-Round Idleness: An Employment Crisis Ignored”.

Employment rates among black male teens and young adults ages 16 to 19 have dropped considerably over the past 50 years, the study found. In 1954, a slight majority -- 52 percent -- of black male teens worked, a rate slightly in excess of their white peers. By 2003, however, only one of five black male teens was employed in a typical month – just 20 percent -- only half the employment rate of white male teens. Among 20 to 24 year old black males, employment rates also have declined considerably from their peak values of 77 to 83 percent in the mid to late 1960s to dramatic 50-year lows more recently. During 2003, for example, just 56 percent of such young black men ages 20 to 24 was employed.

Among older black men, the same dramatic declines were noted over time, according to the report. While the employment rates of black men rise from their late teens through their mid 30s, high levels of joblessness prevail among these men into their late 20s (30 percent of 25 to 29 year old black men were jobless in 2003, for example), then rise sharply as they reach their mid-50s. One of the most disturbing findings was the high share of black males ages 20 to 64 that were jobless year-round. In 2002, one of every four black men in this age group – a full quarter of the entire population within this wide age range -- was idle all year-round, up from 20 percent in the peak labor market year of 2002.


The year-round idleness rate for black men varies by age, educational attainment, and geographic location. Idleness rates in 2002 ranged from a low of 18 percent for those ages 35 to 44 to a high of nearly 42 percent for those 55 to 64. Forty-four percent of black men with no high school diploma were idle year-round versus 26 percent of high school graduates and only 13 percent of those with a bachelor’s or higher degree.

Labor market participation rates are a better indicator than the much more widely publicised unemployment rates. Imagine a quarter of all the adult males you know sitting around and doing no legal job for a full year. What effects do you suppose this has on these people, their behavior, and their communities?

The full report (PDF format) is available for download.

Andrew Sum is also lead author on another new report, "Foreign Immigration and the Labor Force of the U.S." (along with co-authors Ishwar Khatiwada and Sheila Palma) which takes a look at the trend of a growing immigrant labor force in the face of declining net native-born employment in some sectors of the economy.

The number of new immigrants who joined the labor force between 2000 and the first four months of 2004 was between 2.260 and 2.35 million representing 60 to 62 percent of labor force growth.

Between 2000 and April 2004, the total number of new foreign-born workers who were employed was 2.1 million. During that same period, employment of native-born workers and established foreign immigrants declined by 1.3 million, due to higher unemployment and reduced labor force participation.


Nearly 320,000 new immigrants garnered employment in the nation’s manufacturing industries at a time when total wage and salary employment in these industries nationwide declined by more than 2.7 million jobs.

This report makes a mockery of the argument that foreign laborers are needed to do work that noone else will do. The labor market participation rates of natives are declining as immigrants come in willing to take jobs at lower salaries.

It is not too hard to connect the dots to understand what is going on here. What advantage could possibly be gained for the nation as a whole by letting in a large number of low-skilled workers to drive down the wages and drive out of the labor market our existing native-born low-skilled workers?

Also see my previous post Non-Citizens And Illegals Getting Over A Quarter Of New Jobs.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2004 July 27 02:02 PM  Immigration Economics

John S Bolton said at July 27, 2004 8:26 PM:

One can tell that this would be true, also because, if the net immigration was at least one million a year, and the total employment in the country was no higher at the end of the four years, there must have been two million others displaced from jobs, if these cohorts of immigrants became employed for that period at least at the rate of one for every two of them. Yet very few people know this; if they did, the percentage favoring greatly reduced immigration would go over 90%. Public policy has displaced millions here from their jobs, in order to put the foreigner first. This is a very clearcut traitorous feature in public policy, signifying a primary loyalty to foreign interests.

Charles said at July 28, 2004 3:25 AM:

This report leaves many unanswered questions. The main reason is why? Why would so many lay around? One must eat. Where do they get sustenance from? Why won't they take the low paying job? How is it possible for so many illegal aliens to get in? There is a big failure in Government (Nothing new) Problem is not that we need new laws, we need real enforcement of our laws. Government (we the people), Business (My neighbor) the current two party Politics’ (Special Interest) and last but not least the ACLU (Destoryers of common sense) are at fault here.

Randall Parker said at July 28, 2004 10:25 AM:


If people change their behavior it is usually because their incentives change. What has changed? Well, jobs at the bottom pay less and are harder to come by. Why is that? More supply of labor.

As for where they get sustenance: Criminal activities, private charity, government (i.e. via taxes) charity.

John S Bolton said at July 28, 2004 7:35 PM:

Other possibilities are having children and attending to family functions, going to school on borrowed money rather than paying more of the cost from employment income, losing the second income in a household, relying entirely on investment or pension income, drawing down savings, borrowing against home equity and more. When these events occur because of extended lack of employment growth, in the context of continued mass immigration, median incomes will decline. Increase the scale further, and per capita incomes will decline.

Ashish Hanwadikar said at August 6, 2004 7:33 AM:

"What advantage could possibly be gained for the nation as a whole by letting in a large number of low-skilled workers to drive down the wages and drive out of the labor market our existing native-born low-skilled workers?"

There are plenty of advantages. Low prices for consumers (including unemployed native-born low-skilled workers), and higher profits for businesses. Also, when you connect the dots make a note of following things:
If immigrations had not come and taken those jobs driving down the wages and consumer prices and increasing the profits,
a) Capital investment would have been lower otherwise, thus reducing further available jobs. Thus, jobs taken up by immigrations (2.1 million) cannot be directly made available for native-born workers without disturbing the economic balance. Maybe, if new immigrations were not allowed, those 2.1 million jobs would have been created at all (or atleast less number of jobs would have been created).
b) Second, existing capital invested in US might have been fled outside US (outsourcing) because of higher wages if immigration would have been allowed to come and take up the jobs. This could have reduced the employment of existing established immigrants and native-born workers by more than the current 1.3 figure.

Tommy Owens (EEF) said at December 26, 2004 2:54 PM:

The quality of life between the rich and the poor is too wide. And, it will always be that way as long as corporations are allowed to get away with soliciting cheap unskilled labor. We as well as our goverment has a responsibility to the quality of life for ALL Americans. Legislation must be passed in order to ensure that American citizens are offered employment first. Legislation must also be pased in order to prevent corporations from soliciting temporary workforce help for long and sometimes indefinite periiods of time. It should be made a law where a corporation can not use temporary help for more than 30 days with offering the worker permanent employment with benefits. Whats really alarming about it all is that African American Males are mostly the victims.

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