Friday, December 26, 2008

Latino immigration and the South

I've been noting all the reporting on the supposed mass movement of Latin Americans back to their country of origin from the United States. Last week I noted some reasons to doubt this for North Carolina, and I happened to talk to a reporter about how conventional wisdom ignores both sectoral and regional nuances.

This led me to wonder about the differing regional unemployment rates, and the nice thing about being related to a co-author is that sometimes when you mention something that piques your interest, they come up with data, in this case unemployment numbers for males aged 18+ calculated from the Current Population Survey:

Northeast: Hispanics 9.8% unemployed; non-Hispanic 5.9%
Midwest: Hispanics 7.9% unemployed; non-H 5.6%
South: Hispanics 6.9%; non-H 6.1%
West: Hispanics 9.4%; non-H 5.8%

There are a number of different stories in here. Clearly the Latino population suffers from greater unemployment than non-Latinos. However, the regional differences are striking. The South has had the greatest percentage increase in Latinos for the past decade or so, and despite the economic crisis is still absorbing workers to a much greater degree than other parts of the country. This suggests that if there is some sort of exodus, it is not coming from the South. In fact, we may well see increased movements away from the west and northeast, toward the less traditional destinations like North Carolina, Tennessee, Nebraska, Iowa, etc.

One important point to make is that the Census Bureau does not count who is a resident or citizen and who is not. However, that is true for all regions so any distortion should be roughly equal for all regions.


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