Memo to Donald Trump: Canadian immigrants from 'shithole' countries are thriving - Macleans.ca
 

Memo to Donald Trump: Canadian immigrants from ‘shithole’ countries are thriving

Immigrants from countries the president doesn’t like are much higher skilled, on average, than Canadians who have been here for generations


 
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Haitian-Americans protest Donald Trump’s “shithole countries” remarks as they march in Miami on Jan. 12 to commemorate the eighth anniversary of the Haitian earthquake. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Arvind Magesan is associate professor of economics at University of Calgary.

Defenders of Donald Trump say his “shithole countries” remark regarding people from Africa, Haiti and other nations was just Trump being Trump — the president may have used salty language, but it’s really just his way of saying the United States should have a merit-based immigration system like Canada’s.

A generous interpretation of Trump’s comments are that immigrants from certain so-called “shithole” countries—African nations, Haiti and El Salvador—are not typically highly skilled or economically self-reliant, and if admitted would need to depend on the state.

In fact, Trump apologists—and the president himself—might be surprised by what the economic data says about immigrants who come to Canada from the “shithole” countries.

John Fredericks, who was Trump’s campaign chair in Virginia, told CNN that immigrants from those countries “come into the United States and they do nothing to increase the prosperity of the American worker. They lower wages or go on welfare and extend our entitlement system …. Australia and Canada have a merit-based system. You know why they do that? Because they want to bring people into their country who are going to enhance the prosperity of their citizens.”

Trump himself tweeted a similar sentiment.

The conclusion we are expected to make, it seems, is that if the United States was to adopt a purely merit-based system, immigrants would not come from these countries—they would come from countries like Norway, and immigrants from these Norway-like countries would not put pressure on blue-collar U.S. workers because they would be highly skilled and, more importantly, they wouldn’t be a drain on the system because they would be economically self-reliant.

A merit-based system

Canada offers an opportunity to take a look at this hypothesis because our points-based immigration system screens immigrants on merit to a large degree. So when we screen immigrants on merit, who do we let in and how do they do?

The first thing to note is that Canada admits many immigrants from the “shithole” countries.

Data from the 2016 census shows over the last five years there have been more than twice as many immigrants from Central America and the Caribbean (which includes Haiti and El Salvador) than there were from the U.S. There were also more immigrants from the African continent than from the U.S. and North and Western Europe combined.

Clearly a merit-based system does not mean we only admit people from the “Norways” of the world—and in fact, the census data shows only 230 people immigrated from Norway over the five-year period.

The next question is how do these immigrants fare?

To look more closely at this, I used individual 2011 Canadian census data (detailed 2016 data isn’t yet available) to look at three groups: Canadians whose families have been here for three generations or longer; immigrants from the “Norways” of the world (Northern and Western Europe, including the U.K., Germany, and Scandinavia) and immigrants from Trump’s “shithole” countries (Central America, the Caribbean, Africa).

I looked at the skill levels of the different groups, as measured by their education level, and then at their economic self-sufficiency: employment, wages and how much they receive in transfers and employment benefits from the government.

Let’s start with skill level.

Forty per cent of Canadians who have been here for three generations or longer have at least some post-secondary education, and 18 per cent have a bachelor’s degree. By comparison, a much larger percentage of immigrants of either type (53 per cent) have some post-secondary, and 27 per cent of immigrants from “Shitholes” have a bachelor’s degree. So by this standard measure of skill, immigrants from “Shitholes” have a slightly higher skill level than do immigrants from “Norways,” and a much higher skill level on average than Canadians who have been here for generations.

What about self-sufficiency?

It is commonly argued that immigrants, particularly from poorer countries, are “expensive” because they receive a disproportionate amount of government transfers and unemployment benefits. The truth is, though Canadians who have been here for generations are more likely to be employed and earn (slightly) more on average than either immigrant group, immigrants from the “Shitholes” are far more likely to be employed than immigrants from the “Norways.”

Fewer transfer payments

Perhaps more interestingly, immigrants from the “Shitholes” receive fewer transfer payments from all levels of government than “Norwegian” immigrants.

Finally, looking at employment insurance benefits alone, Canadians who have been here for generations receive more than either group.

What can we say about these numbers?

Firstly, immigrants from the “Shithole” countries are not typically low skill and in principle, should not be putting pressure on employment or wages of blue-collar workers in Canada. Then why is this such a common perception?

It’s likely due to a different issue, that high-skilled immigrants are unable to get high-skill jobs for other reasons (discrimination in the labour market, an inability of employers to recognize or evaluate credentials, or even language issues) and then do end up competing with lower-skilled Canadian workers.

Secondly, immigrants from the “Shithole” countries are generally no more dependent on the state than other Canadians. Though they earn less than those from the “Norway” countries, they are more likely to be employed and they receive less total government transfer payments.

Many differences

As an economist, it’s important to state that we shouldn’t interpret these relationships between country of origin and economic outcomes as causal—workers from different countries are different for many reasons (demographics like age, as well as occupation, etc).

But that doesn’t at all affect the main point—Trump’s perception of the differences in the average immigrant from countries like Haiti and Norway is at the very least a consequence ignorance, or as many have suggested, racism.

One thing that can’t be rationalized by the raw numbers here: The course of history and the current plight of many of the “shithole” countries is at least partly a consequence of U.S. foreign policies, that the position of relative economic superiority of the U.S. is partly an outcome of these policies, and that this above all might imply a moral obligation on the part of the U.S. when deciding who to let in and from where.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

The Conversation


 

Memo to Donald Trump: Canadian immigrants from ‘shithole’ countries are thriving

  1. The National Enquirer® (Macleans) just proved his point, Why can’t they do these miracles in their original Country??

  2. We have a merit based system and we have higher standards for those immigrants who enter through that process than exist in our general population. Good for us and it accounts for the data noted. Those are exactly the types of skills we should be allowing to immigrate here.
    Trump, however, was talking about why the Democrats wanted to keep a bunch of people from shit hole countries like Haiti and El Salvador who came as TEMPORARY REFUGEES due to issues in their country like the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. They didn’t come in under any merit system and, because of the poverty in the countries they came from, where both education and health care are severely lacking, the quality of those people would be lower than if they temporarily had come to the U.S. from Norway which is the richest country in the world. The Democrats aren’t full of benevolence, they just want the votes. That’s the real answer to Trump’s bluntly stated question.

  3. Canadian immigration isn’t just one thing as it comprises several streams including compassionate streams such as refugees and family reunification. It is instructive to study the actual history of Canadian immigration. First, merit based sounds good and should, in principle, be good; however, it is important to recognize that how merit points are assigned can reflect bias and prejudice: the Norway thing is a good example as at times there was extra ‘merit’ in being Northern European in the Canadian immigration system. In recent times we’ve seen political posturing on issues like a ‘Canadian values test’, ‘Old Stock Canadians’, accommodation, and other code words that comprise the tired ‘northern European’ meme. At one time being a farmer or at least claiming to be one was almost a necessity. Of course various forms of bringing wealth (some call it paying for citizenship while Vancouverites have generally called it much worse). What happens in practice is that immigrant demographics is much shaped by motivated individuals who find Canada preferable to their existing circumstances and those who are pushed (at various times Britain and France found Canada an ideal place to send surplus individuals); in general, actual immigration deviated from what the bureaucrats of the day considered most desirable. Lucky for us, sod-busting the prairies required know-how and grit that the preferred immigrants lacked but that the actual immigrants had. One should be skeptical of selection based on perceived manpower needs as governments have, over the course of time, been pretty bad at predicting current and future demand and even worse at implementing programs to provide recognition of foreign credentials.

    • I’m not against “compassionate streams”. Over Harper’s tenure there were about 11,000 of those each year and a bump up during Trudeau’s first year due to the awful mess in Syria. But the Haitians, Somalians and El Salvadorians that the Democrats want to keep in the U.S., came to there under TEMPORARY permits until infrastructure was restored in their countries after disasters like the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. The very poorest were allowed to come. In 2014, the Haitians who entered Canada on TEMPORARY permits were sent home. The U.S. gave their contingent 4 more years and now they’re being sent home too. However, the longer you abuse the premise of a TEMPORARY refugee,as the Obama administration did to garner more votes for their party, the harder it is to take action.

      • Please explain exactly how allowing temporary refugees garners more votes for anyone. They aren’t citizens & they can’t vote!

        • Give me a break. That’s why the Democrats are against voter ID. And the current Democratic dolts want to make the 11 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. citizens so they can vote without the current slight of hand.

          • By definition, if they are now “illegal”, they would have to undergo the process of becoming legal. Few years later, they will be able to apply for citizenship. Once they have their US citizenship, they can vote. Not to argue the Democrats intent, but you have to realize that the 11 mil. will only vote in 2024 (if at all). For some reason I’m reluctant to believe the Democrats attention span is that long… Is it possible that the Dems. just want to do the right thing? Perhaps prevent the unemployment levels from dropping too far, increasing wage pressures? As far as I can recall, the Dems, were always pro immigration. How come they couldn’t win the last election if all these immigrants vote for them?

          • Part of what the Democrats are demanding for the DACA illegal immigrants deal is immediate citizenship. So that group of 800,000, if the Democrats had their way, could even vote in the mid-term elections. Under chain migration (or “family unification” as the Dems call it), they want the same status granted for the families of the DACA kids. That’s another 2.5 million. And,for the rest, your premise is probably correct but I’d say they could be citizens and eligible to vote in 2020. By the way there are 339 million other American citizens besides the 11 million illegals and about half of them can vote.

  4. and from year to year Canada is becoming a SHITTHOLE COUNTRY ITSELF….

  5. STOP WHITE GENOCIDE