Stacking up demographically

There’s always a lot of discussion in the national context about statistics such as per capita income, % with bachelor’s degree attainment, etc. On the one hand these sorts of concrete quantities are really essential to move forward any discussion which presumes a possible policy prescription. But on the other hand statistics without the proper frame can be misused. I recall back in college discussions among my friends who were Asian American activists. Their common complaint was that all Asian Americans were bracketed into a “Model Minority,” when in fact there were large communities of Southeast Asian refugees which as a whole totally did not fit mainstream expectations (usually they were really talking about the Hmong). But the reality is that on the balance demographically Asian America is, and was, dominated by a few large prominent groups, such as the Chinese, Koreans, Japanese, and Indians. The Hmong are real, but they’re not representative (a South Asian analog may be the fact that “Pakistani” and “Bangladeshi” in the U.K. really represent the subcultures of the Mirpuri and Sylhetti, with those outside of these communities often being marginalized in the broader discourse because they’re not demographically representative).

This came to mind when discussing Indian American income and education. I decided to look at a few statistics from the Census 2000 and arrange them in scatter plot form so you could compare how two variables manifest in a particular demographic group. I included Indian Americans, Chinese Americans, Mexican Americans, and the general American population.sm1census.jpg sm1census2.jpg sm1census3.jpgsm1census4.jpg

5 thoughts on “Stacking up demographically

  1. So you mean that in addition to your research telling me that I’m part Onge/ASI/ANI/EastAsian that I’m also, based on my personal finances, Mexican, apparently?

    • So you mean that in addition to your research telling me that I’m part Onge/ASI/ANI/EastAsian that I’m also, based on my personal finances, Mexican, apparently?

      funny :-) the confidence intervals on a lot of social data is pretty wide now compared to what we can do re: genomics. though not always. if an american says they’re “hindu” there’s a 90% chance that person is of part or all indian ancestry. i considered posting the brackets of income…but the census site was slow, and i would have liked a finer-grain.

  2. This post comes at just the right time for me. I need help getting something cleared up. I have had discussions with two separate people who told me that wages for engineers in the US have gone down because of all the Indian engineers being brought in. Is there any truth at all to this? I know that salaries for Indian-Americans are high but does this include Indians here on a visa? I just need to know what I can say the next time this comes up.

  3. I have had discussions with two separate people who told me that wages for engineers in the US have gone down because of all the Indian engineers being brought in. Is there any truth at all to this? I know that salaries for Indian-Americans are high but does this include Indians here on a visa? I just need to know what I can say the next time this comes up.

    this is a fraught area. from what i have read the main issue that labor economists agree with re: wages and migration is that in the USA it is the very low skill/wage sector which is most impacted by immigrants. basically if you increase the supply of labor the purchasers, capital, can get a “better deal.” if you tighten labor supply, then labor is in a better position to negotiate. but, i’ve seen a little less stuff that this impacts certain sectors in the high end as well. in software engineering licensing and certification isn’t quite as onerous as professions protected by the force of the law (e.g., medicine & law), so if you allow migrants with skills to come in they’ll put some “downward pressure” on wages. in the real world the wages for engineers are OK compared to the average, because value-added high skill work is still necessary and demand keeps growing. additionally, cheap labor means a cheaper product. also, more labor means you can get more aggregate productivity through labor hours. so in general i think high skill immigrants are a net good for all of society, though certain high skill sectors do have less growth in wages than they otherwise would.

    also, if you work in software, you know that this is a sector which is easily exportable. the reality is that in his area you’ve always got to hustle. if you keep labor out capital will just relocate abroad. it isn’t like there are huge investments like factories which are going to keep them here.

    (for the record, i tend to favor high skill immigration but think we need to reconsider the social utility of low skill immigration, mostly because i think there’s a lot more value in having very low unemployment and tight labor markets in the low skill sector than this having cheaper services and products which low skilled people produce. if engineers make $70,000 instead of $95,000, i don’t care too much)

  4. I think median salary and % with college degree is high for Indians because of high skill immigration. I think this data would make more sense if it were limited to US born Indians, Chinese.