Labour economics

From "America’s leading immigration economist" (The Wall Street Journal), a refreshingly level-headed exploration of the effects of immigration.

We are a nation of immigrants, and we have always been concerned about immigration. As early as 1645, the Massachusetts Bay Colony began to prohibit the entry of "paupers." Today, however, the notion that immigration is universally beneficial has become pervasive. To many modern economists, immigrants are a trove of much-needed workers who can fill predetermined slots along the proverbial assembly line.

But this view of immigration’s impact is overly simplified, explains George J. Borjas, a Cuban-American, Harvard labor economist. Immigrants are more than just workers—they’re people who have lives outside of the factory gates and who may or may not fit the ideal of the country to which they’ve come to live and work. Like the rest of us, they’re protected by social insurance programs, and the choices they make are affected by their social environments.

In We Wanted Workers, Borjas pulls back the curtain of political bluster to show that, in the grand scheme, immigration has not affected the average American all that much. But it has created winners and losers. The losers tend to be nonmigrant workers who compete for the same jobs as immigrants. And somebody’s lower wage is somebody else’s higher profit, so those who employ immigrants benefit handsomely. In the end, immigration is mainly just another government redistribution program.

"I am an immigrant," writes Borjas, "and yet I do not buy into the notion that immigration is universally beneficial…But I still feel that it is a good thing to give some of the poor and huddled masses, people who face so many hardships, a chance to experience the incredible opportunities that our exceptional country has to offer." Whether you’re a Democrat, a Republican, or an Independent, We Wanted Workers is essential reading for anyone interested in the issue of immigration in America today.

The New York Times bestselling work of undercover reportage from our sharpest and most original social critic, with a new foreword by Matthew Desmond, author of Evicted

Millions of Americans work full time, year round, for poverty-level wages. In 1998, Barbara Ehrenreich decided to join them. She was inspired in part by the rhetoric surrounding welfare reform, which promised that a job—any job—can be the ticket to a better life. But how does anyone survive, let alone prosper, on $6 an hour?

To find out, Ehrenreich left her home, took the cheapest lodgings she could find, and accepted whatever jobs she was offered. Moving from Florida to Maine to Minnesota, she worked as a waitress, a hotel maid, a cleaning woman, a nursing-home aide, and a Wal-Mart sales clerk. She lived in trailer parks and crumbling residential motels. Very quickly, she discovered that no job is truly "unskilled," that even the lowliest occupations require exhausting mental and muscular effort. She also learned that one job is not enough; you need at least two if you int to live indoors.

Nickel and Dimed reveals low-rent America in all its tenacity, anxiety, and surprising generosity—a land of Big Boxes, fast food, and a thousand desperate stratagems for survival. Read it for the smoldering clarity of Ehrenreich's perspective and for a rare view of how "prosperity" looks from the bottom. And now, in a new foreword, Matthew Desmond, author of Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, explains why, twenty years on in America, Nickel and Dimed is more relevant than ever.
The bestselling author of Nickel and Dimed goes back undercover to do for America's ailing middle class what she did for the working poor

Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed explored the lives of low-wage workers. Now, in Bait and Switch, she enters another hidden realm of the economy: the shadowy world of the white-collar unemployed. Armed with a plausible résumé of a professional "in transition," she attempts to land a middle-class job—undergoing career coaching and personality testing, then trawling a series of EST-like boot camps, job fairs, networking events, and evangelical job-search ministries. She gets an image makeover, works to project a winning attitude, yet is proselytized, scammed, lectured, and—again and again—rejected.

Bait and Switch highlights the people who've done everything right—gotten college degrees, developed marketable skills, and built up impressive résumés—yet have become repeatedly vulnerable to financial disaster, and not simply due to the vagaries of the business cycle. Today's ultra-lean corporations take pride in shedding their "surplus" employees—plunging them, for months or years at a stretch, into the twilight zone of white-collar unemployment, where job searching becomes a full-time job in itself. As Ehrenreich discovers, there are few social supports for these newly disposable workers—and little security even for those who have jobs.

Like the now classic Nickel and Dimed, Bait and Switch is alternately hilarious and tragic, a searing exposé of economic cruelty where we least expect it.
With recent immigration at a near record high, many observers fear that African Americans, particularly those in low skill jobs, are increasingly losing out to immigrants in the American labor market. Because today's immigrants are largely non-European and non-white, there is also speculation that their presence will intensify the competition for housing and educational opportunities among minority groups. Help or Hindrance? probes the foundation of these concerns with the first comprehensive investigation into the effects of immigration on African Americans. With detailed economic analysis of African American job prospects, benefits, and working conditions, Help or Hindrance? demonstrates that although immigration does not appear to have affected the actual employment rate of blacks, it has contributed slightly to the widening gap between the annual earnings of black and white males. Those near the lowest skills level appear most affected, suggesting that the most likely losers are workers with abilities similar to those of immigrants. With many employers moving away from cities, access to housing and problems of segregation have also become integral to success in the job market. And within black neighborhoods themselves, the establishment of small immigrant businesses has raised concerns that these may hinder local residents from starting up similar ventures. Help or Hindrance? also examines how immigration has affected the educational attainment of African Americans. Increased competition for college affirmative action and remedial programs has noticeably reduced African Americans' access to college places and scholarships. Help or Hindrance? offers compelling evidence that although immigration has in many ways benefited parts of American society, it has had a cumulatively negative effect on the economic prospects of African Americans. In concluding chapters, this volume provides an overview of possible policy interventions and evaluates them within the current social and political climate. Because the long-term impact of current immigration on social welfare remains unknown solutions are far from clear. Help or Hindrance? provides a valuable benchmark for discussion of immigration and racial equity in a time of rapid population change.
Nearly every job application asks it: have you ever been convicted of a crime? For the hundreds of thousands of young men leaving American prisons each year, their answer to that question may determine whether they can find work and begin rebuilding their lives.

The product of an innovative field experiment, Marked gives us our first real glimpse into the tremendous difficulties facing ex-offenders in the job market. Devah Pager matched up pairs of young men, randomly assigned them criminal records, then sent them on hundreds of real job searches throughout the city of Milwaukee. Her applicants were attractive, articulate, and capable—yet ex-offenders received less than half the callbacks of the equally qualified applicants without criminal backgrounds. Young black men, meanwhile, paid a particularly high price: those with clean records fared no better in their job searches than white men just out of prison. Such shocking barriers to legitimate work, Pager contends, are an important reason that many ex-prisoners soon find themselves back in the realm of poverty, underground employment, and crime that led them to prison in the first place.

“Using scholarly research, field research in Milwaukee, and graphics, [Pager] shows that ex-offenders, white or black, stand a very poor chance of getting a legitimate job. . . . Both informative and convincing.”—Library Journal

Marked is that rare book: a penetrating text that rings with moral concern couched in vivid prose—and one of the most useful sociological studies in years.”—Michael Eric Dyson

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