The Texas Non-Miracle

Written by David Frum on Thursday September 22, 2011

About all those new jobs created under Gov. Rick Perry...

The Center for Immigration Studies reports some facts that should sprinkle a little cold water on over-heated claims for the low-wage/high-immigration Texas economic model.

Of jobs created in Texas since 2007, 81 percent were taken by newly arrived immigrant workers (legal and illegal).

Absorb that for a minute.

Native-born Texans have experienced a jobs catastrophe very similar to that of Americans everywhere else in the United States, reports CIS:

The share of working-age natives holding a job in Texas declined significantly, from 71 percent in 2007 to 67 percent in 2011. This decline is very similar to the decline for natives in the United States as a whole and is an indication that the situation for native-born workers in Texas is very similar to the overall situation in the country despite the state’s job growth.

What we are seeing here is not a pattern of job creation. It is a pattern of job displacement.

The large share of job growth that went to immigrants is surprising because the native-born accounted for 69 percent of the growth in Texas’ working-age population (16 to 65). Thus, even though natives made up most of the growth in potential workers, most of the job growth went to immigrants.

And by the way - it's not just a matter of jobs "Americans won't do." As the decline in native-born employment shows, these are jobs natives used to do as recently as 2007. And the displacement is occurring higher and higher up the pay scale.

Immigrants took jobs across the educational distribution. More than one out three (97,000) of newly arrived immigrants who took a job had at least some college.

In all this, illegal immigration remains a huge factor, despite the often-heard claim that illegal immigration has slowed since the end of the housing bubble.

Of newly arrived immigrants who took jobs in Texas since 2007, we estimate that 50 percent (113,000) were illegal immigrants. Thus, about 40 percent of all the job growth in Texas since 2007 went to newly arrived illegal immigrants and 40 percent went to newly arrived legal immigrants.

A couple of conclusions follow:

1) There was no Texas miracle, from the point of view of the people who constituted the population of Texas back in 2007.

2) Rick Perry's permissive view of immigration is not (as I've pointed out before) some compassionate-conservative exception to his no-soup-for-you economic policy. A permissive immigration is the indispensable prerequisite to the no-soup-for-you economy over which Perry presided.

3) Immigration is not an issue separate from the debate over employment and growth. It's integral. You could plausibly argue in the 2000s that immigration was ancillary to job growth for Americans - or even that it somehow spurred job growth for Americans. In today's context however, immigration is increasingly a substitute for job growth for Americans.

4) Mitt Romney finally has his answer the next time Rick Perry attacks him for Massachusetts poor jobs ranking in the early part of the 2000s.

"The numbers show, Governor, that your economic policy was great at creating jobs - for Mexico."