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Thursday, June 20, 2002


Did all Americans benefit from the great boom of the 1990's? Apparently not. According to the report of the census bureau published earlier this week, incomes of men fell in 26 states, and nationally the male median income fell by 2.3%. Womens incomes - still only 73% of mens - rose and average of 7%. However while 10% of families were deemed poor in 1989, this had fallen modestly to 9.2% in the latest count.

On another front this has been a record decade for immigration, adding fuel to the idea that this surge of new workers formed an important part of the combustible material for the stunning US performance. The bureau also found that more than half the foreign-born population — 52 percent — came from Latin America, an increase from 44 percent in the decade. Of the 281.4 million people the census found in 2000, it said 31.1 million came from abroad, 11.3 million more than in 1990, an increase of 57 percent. According to the NYT:

The increase in the immigrant population, which many state officials believe was undercounted, surpassed the century's greatest wave of immigration, from 1900 to 1910, when the number of foreign-born residents grew by 31 percent........Demographers noted that for the first time in the 1990's, immigrants moved far beyond the big coastal cities and Chicago and Denver and Houston, into the Great Plains, the South and Appalachia........."These numbers represent an enormous social experiment with very high stakes," said Steven A. Camarota, director of research for the Center for Immigration Studies, which advocates stricter immigration control. "No country has ever attempted to assimilate and incorporate 31 million newcomers, and the experiment is not over."

Other analysts add, however, that immigrants helped propel the boom in the 90's, taking low-paid service jobs and vital assignments in medicine and in technology companies. Reynolds Farley, demographer at the University of Michigan, said some of the nation's old, ailing cities also had low growth of both industry and immigration.

Much of the huge growth in immigration in Sun Belt states, including Nevada, Arizona, Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee, was fueled by growth in domestic migration. The flow of wealthy individuals fleeing congested big cities created the need for low-wage workers to build homes, staff restaurants and hotels and do other low-paid service work."

All of this seems to me, at least, to indicate that a lot of the so-called NAIRU mystery, and one of the long neglected and unsung motors of the 90's New Economy is in fact to be found in US demographic dynamics.

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