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'A Pro-Work, Pro-Working-Class Agenda'

3:23 PM, Aug 23, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
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Pete Spiliakos of First Things writes:

The skills gap in unemployment is huge. Workers with at least a four-year college degree have an unemployment rate of 3.8 percent and a labor force participation rate of 75.5 percent. Workers with less than a high school diploma have an unemployment rate of 11 percent and a labor force participation rate of 45.4 percent. Over the last thirty years, wages for workers with a four year college degree have risen while wages for male workers with less than a high school diploma have declined sharply. And yet some economists argue that, despite the high unemployment rate and declining wages, the US faces a shortage of low-skill workers.

According to these economists, low-skill natives too often are drug addicted, too often have criminal records, and are too reluctant to moveto areas where the economy is expanding. But this entire framework is wrong. We ought to think of America's low-skill population, both the foreign and native born, as having common interests. We ought to work to redesign our welfare, tax, health care and immigration policies so that they work better for America’s struggling low-skill workers of all backgrounds.


study by Brian Cadena and Brian Kovak found that Mexican-born workers were more likely than native-born workers to relocate to areas of greater job growth. The study also notes that those Mexican-born workers were “much less likely to receive unemployment insurance benefits compared to similarly skilled natives, which likely increases the urgency of finding new employment.” Reihan Salam observed that native-born low-skill workers are more likely to have existing social support networks and greater access to the welfare state and that this likely plays a major role in mobility.

As individual foreign-born low-skill workers attain US citizenship, gain access to the American welfare state, and build social networks, we should expect the labor markets of those particular foreign-born workers and native-born workers to converge. That would be a good thing. We should not want a separate caste of workers who do not have access to the same protections as the rest of the population. We should want foreign-born workers to be fully integrated into American society.

Whole thing here.

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