Monday, April 03, 2006

How does the math work on "illegals"?

In the last few days I have heard a number of folks claim that we don't "need" any of these illegal aliens as workers. We should send them all home and build a million foot high fence around the whole country to keep them all out. We don't even need to alter our policies of today to allow more people, even different people, to enter legally and work. They argue that the unemployed or underemployed would do the jobs the illegals do if employers (and ultimately end consumers) would simply pay them more. They claim the people most hurt by the illegal immigrants is "unskilled" US citizens who are proportionally minority.

I agree that the people most hurt by the presence of millions of illegal aliens are the people who would possibly take those jobs if the illegal aliens weren't here. I don't agree with the first part and I can prove it.

There are currently almost 300 million people in America according to the last census. This number includes all aliens, legal and illegal.

My second assumption is that the figures generally thrown around about the illegal aliens are reasonably accurate. Specifically, that there are about 12 million of them here and about 8 million of them are gainfully employed more or less full time.

My third assumption set starts with the data here. There are 72 million people under 18 and 35 million over 65 for a total of 53 million in the "not employable" group. I suspect that number is low as I suspect there are more people retired under 65 than working after 65, but they didn't give me a 60 and over or a "retired" number that was handy. This also does not account for housewives or the disabled that have no current interest in being employed. But our total now is 235 million.

So, next we look at disabled. The census data I looked at didn't give me a distinction of disabled and unable to work. It also didn't give me a nationwide percentage but I hit the most populous states and they were all above 15% of the persons 21 to 64 who have a disability. So we need to take out some percentage of that 235 million who are too disabled to work. I am going to use 5% which may be too high or too low. Now we are at 223 million people "employable".

This leaves us with 235 million "employable" people that are here with a legal right to work. I don't want to force full time mothers (who have a means of support other than the government) to go to work, and they aren't included for unemployment statistics so I looked here for some help. They claim 41% of married women with children work full time. Therefore, about 60% of married women with children don't.

The census quickly tells me that women are a little over 50% of the population and 51% are married, so that is one quarter of our 235 million (or 58.75 million) of our "employables" who are married. I am going to assume half of them have children and take another 60% of that to get another 17 million people who are not "employable". Now we are at 218 million "employable".

I am going to randomly take out another 8 million for the women who don't have children but did and didn't go back to work and women who no longer work because their husband's income allows them not to at this point. So I will start with 210 million "employable" US citizens who want a job.

Current unemployment is around 5%. I believe this measure is high because I claim that it counts a lot of people not looking for work. In fairness, others would argue that it is low because it does not measure some US citizens who are. The real question is which group do you think is bigger. For now we will use 5%.

5% of 210 million being unemployed means that we have 10.5 million US citizens looking for a job. So, in the perfect world that those making the argument above believe we live in, these 10.5 million people would compete for the 8 million jobs that illegal aliens are doing today if the jobs just paid a little more.

That leaves us 2.5 million people who still need a job. So it is possible, right? WRONG! 2.5 million unemployed out of an employable population of 210 million is about 1.2% unemployment. In the real world that is not only unattainable but undesirable. Our productivity as a society would plummet because people would be spending all of their time looking for the next job that would pay them more and little time actually getting anything done. Inflation would zoom out of control. Not good, even if it was possible.

Economists argue about what real number for unemployment represents "full employment" but I haven't seen one in recent years argue that this number is below 3%. Most argue that it is higher. Therefore, at an absolute minimum, we need about half of the working illegal aliens presently here (or some replacement thereof) to sustain our present economy. And, by the way, that is before all the baby boomers retire on us dramatically reducing my 210 million number above.

The only way their argument works is if we fire millions of government paper pushers and staffers and force them to get jobs that produce something other than red tape and hot air. I am all for that, but I don't see it as realistic in the body politic.


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