A classic whine by former British citizen and relatively new U.S. citizen Andrew Sullivan:
“In a little less than a week in London, I have yet to buy anything from someone English. Everywhere I hear foreign accents or one of the more than 300 languages London now incorporates. Thirty-seven percent of the capital’s population is foreign-born…”
This same view is often expressed by people who dislike California; they attack California on many grounds: specifically, on foreign immigrants in California and immigration to California.
Retired history professor Victor Davis Hanson is a good example of the phenomenon. Hanson’s book Mexifornia and a follow-up 2007 essay in City Journal are classics of the genre. Hanson is adored by the modern “know-nothings of the United States who despise California and its immigrant population.
The original Know-Nothings targeted Roman Catholic Irish immigrants; today’s version targets Roman Catholic Mexicans.
Unfortunately for Hanson and his acolytes, California’s place in the world refutes virtually everything they say about California. Facts leave this cabal with very little foundation to criticize.
Despite its present pro-immigrant status, California has not always accepted immigrants.
Traditionally, California followed the Hanson anti-immigrant, anti-Mexican plan.
The Los Angeles Times, a leader of California’s anti-immigration thought throughout the 1950s: “During historical periods when our nation passed legislation restricting or barring immigration, California led the way and established its own exclusionary rules at the state and local level. For example, the national Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 was preceded by (California’s) legislation that proved to be more detrimental to the Chinese community because it didn’t just restrict their immigration, it prohibited work by Chinese people.”
The critics are correct in pointing at California insofar as immigrants are concerned — factually.
A Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) study concludes that California has the largest immigrant population in the United States; 51 percent are from Latin America, 4.2 million — 10 percent of California’s population — are from Mexico. Some 49 percent of the foreign-born are U.S. citizens, 26 percent are legal-at-some-level. And 25 percent are not legally in the United States.
This huge number from Mexico features an uneducated cohort that is shrinking by the day. We are fortunate that the Mexican immigrant population has a work ethic that dwarfs that of others.
The days of highly uneducated Mexicans is evaporating before our eyes, however.
The PPIC study shows that “79 percent of immigrants in California are working-age adults (age 18 to 64), compared to less than 6 in 10 (57 percent) US-born California residents. Thirty-four percent (34%) of working-age adults in the state are immigrants.”
Feeding that working-age cohort are numbers from California’s high schools. The National Center for Educational Statistics reports: “During (2000-2015) the status dropout rate declined…from 27.8 to 9.2 percent for Hispanic youth…The gap between White and Hispanic youth narrowed from 20.9 percentage points in 2000 to 4.6 percentage points in 2015.”
PPIC also reports that “For Latino students the graduation rate rose to 80 percent, up slightly from the previous year.”
This better educated Mexican-origin Californian is highly productive, so much so that California’s workers are the most productive and best paid in the United States with only one exception: New York. This has been true for a decade or longer. In 2008, for example, the PPIC reported that the average California worker took home an income 9.7 percent higher than the national average in 2006.
Considering demographics, occupation and industries, California’s wage premium in that study was even higher than 9.7 percent. The effective percentage, 11.5 percent. That means the California worker earned an average of 11.5 percent more than workers with similar demographics and jobs outside California. Little has changed since 2006 except for the 2008 recession.
What’s interesting is that the California median income for immigrant families is higher than of all families in West Virginia, Mississippi and Arkansas ($45,000), or of Oklahoma, Louisiana, Alabama, South Carolina, Tennessee and Kentucky ($49,000) and more than Texas, Florida, Georgia and North Carolina ($59,000).
Then there is average worker gross domestic product (GDP) in California; in 2015 New York ranked first in the United States with $138,877, California ranked second with $121,772, Texas followed with $114,384.
This is important not because critics carry much weight intellectually but because according to national economic statistics California has regained its position as the fifth-largest economy in the entire world. With its $2.7 trillion-dollar economy, California has raced by the United Kingdom despute despite the United Kingdom having 24 million more people; coincidently that $2.7 trillion-dollar-economy size matches next door neighbor Mexico, the 11th-largest economy in the world.
California Governor Jerry Brown: “California is growing a hell of a lot faster than (fill in the blank).”
That’s a fact. Only the United States, China, Japan and Germany are economically larger than California. California with its large immigrant population is number one again, number one in the United States, number one in the world; critics notwithstanding.
Raoul Lowery Contreras is the author of The Armenian Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy and “Murder in the Mountains: War Crime in Khojaly.” He also wrote for the New American News Service of the New York Times Syndicate.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.