Friday, July 20, 2012

A couple more labor links

- A recent Brookings conference on the H1-B. I haven't watched it yet, but I hear from Norm Matloff that Jared Bernstein is the only one that even questions the visa. My view is "evolving" on this. I've just gotten into immigration issues this year. My view is generally in favor of more open borders, but I have a lot of concerns about immigration policies that discourage settlement and integration (not in the French sense - I like immigrants maintaining cultural practices - more in the sense of learning English and getting integrated into American civic institutions rather than being afraid of coming into contact with American institutions). I also have concerns about immigration policies that distort the labor market, such as this obsession with only importing high-skill workers. Policies like auctioning visas that are a step in the right direction in the sense that they are more market driven and less driven by bureaucratic whim. But they still aren't a genuine "market solution" in my view, because they heavily tip the scales in favor of high income/high-skill immigrants.

- The Brookings conference reminds me of a paper that Audrey Singer (of Brookings) shared with me last week after the Georgetown conference on the geography of immigrant skills. Talking with her about this issue was particularly interesting because a lot of the discussion of high skill labor issues during the Georgetown conference was about national-level "labor shortages" (I put that in quotes because as you all know, I'm skeptical of the claim). The reason we talk about this nationally is that it's a national labor market for these jobs, but also because local data on this is harder to get. But local labor shortages (at least temporary ones) are in a lot of ways a lot more plausible than national shortages.  Notable findings of her report include:

  1. As of 2010, more working immigrants had a college degree than had a high school diploma (30 percent vs. 28 percent). However, the plurality (40 percent) still had less than a high school diploma.
  2. High skilled immigrants do not perfectly overlap with new "gateway" destinations. High skill immigrants are largely coming to metro areas (not surprising), but the fastest growing metropolitan immigrant communities are lower skilled

- Christian Science Monitor reports that the hardest to fill jobs are for mid-level skilled workers. The people clamoring for more S&E education really need to understand this. The real gap in U.S. education is for mid-level technical skills, not for high skilled workers. And God know we have enough low skill workers. Let's life some of them up rather than putting more people into science classes (not that I have anything against science classes - we just don't have the dire shortages a lot of people worry about). Oh, and apprenticeships. The macroeconomist in me recoils at German policymakers. The labor economist in me loves them.

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