I saw this post, and of course I inwardly sighed because while this data is true (U.S. Census Bureau), it doesn’t look at the whole picture. It is only seeing one side and not considering why the data says this.
Then I sighed when I read the caption (yes, before you ask, he is white and male):
“This seems to show that immigrants may be harder workers and/or are willing to take more risks”, is a dangerous statement to make.
“Harder Workers who take more risks”
So much to unpack here.
Let’s start with “Immigrants Are Harder Workers”.
I do not believe this at all. There are plenty of people who are not immigrants, who are hard workers. And who is to say what a “hard worker” means? If you’re equating hard work with how much money they make, that’s a flawed assumption to begin with.
For instance, I see home and commercial cleaners work like crazy, but they do not make a lot of money (at least not here, though maybe elsewhere they might or if they owned the business), and yet are we saying because they don’t make a lot of money, they’re not hardworking?
I even look into my own family and see members working long hours for a pitiful minimum wage due to a lack of economic opportunities, terrible start in life (poor childhood, starving), all of it culminating into them desperately wanting a better life but not having had the luck or opportunity.
Why does hardworking = making lots of money? Not all people who make bank, are hardworking. I’ll leave it at that.
Now let’s move on to “Immigrants Take More Risks”
On the one hand, all immigrants take risks. When you leave your country, you weigh the risk between staying where you are (known life), and coming to a place where you may not even speak the language fluently, and you definitely do not know the customs or the culture. It’s a huge shock.
On the other hand, the immigrants that leave, are not your average worker. To give an example, if we look at the chart above, we can see that Indians top the chart in making the most in terms of median income, but the Indians who immigrated here, are highly skilled, sought after workers, via the Immigration Act of 1990.
These people moving here, are not Indian farmers who make pennies. They are people who are needed in industries that are desperate for workers, such as in IT, medicine, and so on. So are they really taking a risk? Yes, but also, in their country, they were doing just fine as well. It’s just that they saw a better opportunity to come to the U.S. as a skilled worker because the salaries are astronomical compared to what they earn in India. As an example:
Average U.S. minimum wage is about $7.25/hour, or $1160 USD a month, just a little bit above what 75% of Indian workers make; but when skilled immigrants come here, it isn’t for minimum wage jobs, it’s for jobs starting at $80K USD to $250K USD, I am sure.
Lastly, I received this comment:
On the immigration point it also ignores the fact that those who are less successful tend to move back to their home countries after a while, even further pushing up the average incomes of those who stay – I did my honours thesis on this!
So there you have it. Even if they move here, they may move back after deciding it isn’t what they expected.
1. Stop equating hard worker = someone who makes lots of money
I am eye rolling so hard at this because if we are going to give stereotypical, blanket statements, it means you’re basically saying that Black people and White people are not hard workers, as they are at the “bottom” of this chart. Is that true? I think not.
2. Stop ignoring the fact that Immigrants = Cream of the Crop
You aren’t comparing apples to oranges here.
Someone who is able to leave their home country and to immigrate here (even in Canada), needs to have skills the country wants. The skills that the country wants, tends to be higher paying, rarer / more sought after jobs that people living here did not train for or learn.
The chart shows the cream of the crop versus people who are not immigrants (and yes, most Asians are immigrants in the country). That’s like putting a group of women doctors together in a room full of male retail workers and saying: WELL LOOK! All the women MAKE WAY MORE MONEY. Income inequality amongst genders DOESN’T EXIST!
3. Minority discrimination STILL exists
I have a particular distaste for these charts because minority discrimination still exists, even if the stats show one narrow-minded view of what is going on. Those who come over and immigrate for a better job, certainly are the cream of the crop and make way more than your average citizen…. but that doesn’t mean they don’t face discrimination. That doesn’t mean that what they make, is equal to what a citizen in their same position makes.
Someone who is white, in their field, could be making double what they are, for a number of reasons, but it is certain that we still have discrimination against minorities. Just look at all the rallies to “keep all the immigrants out who are taking our jobs”, when in fact, immigrants are coming in to help fill in the gaps as there are not enough citizens to do so. Just look at the rise in racial hate and crimes against those who aren’t white. You don’t have to look far to see this. This chart by Mona Chalabi says a lot:
*Yes it says Asian men earn more than White men up there, but let’s not forget that Immigrants are the Cream of the Crop. They really drive up the income inequality and the averages, as they are a minority and there are so few of them in the country to begin with versus White people.
4. There are gross income inequalities even amongst the groups above
Do you see those ubiquitous photos about elderly Asians still collecting bottles and trash to deposit and get the money back to live on? Do you think they’re in that $85K salary range? There is such a wide gap of income even within each race, AS IT IS WITH ALL RACES, that to say that we cannot assume the median nor the average, is representative of anything. A small percentage of people within that group who are making bank, will inevitably cause the average salary to be astronomical.
Just seeing stats of a median salary, having your blood boil over “immigrants coming to take our jobs” (um, it is more like they are coming to fill in the skills gaps in your workforce because people can’t just come over), or trumpeting that “racial inequality doesn’t exist and THIS MEDIAN SALARY CHART PROVES IT”, and not seeing the history of why and how this all happened, is just another gap in critical thinking that we are missing as a society.
It also really hurts citizens who live in the country, and especially those in those groups who are then being told: Look, you’re Indian, how come you aren’t rich? Are you lazy?, when in fact, they are completely ignoring the fact that those who came over initially, were already at the top of their fields or highly specialized.
People love using these stats as a way to prove there isn’t racism, or that they don’t have to work to change anything or fix the system that is sorely broken and heavily stacked against minorities; instead, blaming the minorities themselves for being lazy and whining. Or pitting minorities against each other saying: How come Indians make lots of money and they’re also people of colour? You’re just being lazy.
All of this aggravates me.