One of my favorite writers on migration issues, Michael Clemens, just released a study called “International Harvest: A Case Study of How Foreign Workers Help American Farms Grow Crops – and the Economy.” A Washington Post article (“North Carolina needed 6,500 farm workers. Only 7 Americans stuck it out”) does a good job of summarizing it’s main findings, although the entire study is well worth reading.
2 of the most striking findings are that (1) American workers won’t take the type of farm jobs that immigrants often work. Take this table, for example:
In 2011, the unemployment rate in North Carolina was quite high at 10.51%, which meant that there were more than 489,000 American workers in the state actively looking for a job. Of that group, only 268 were asked to be referred to manual labor jobs with the North Carolina Growers Association (NCGA). And of those 268, only 163 showed up for work. This gets us to striking finding #2. Of the Americans that did start work, only 7 finished the season. Here is another excellent figure showing the willingness of native workers versus immigrants to tough it out over the season.
Now, I’m not making fun of the American workers who didn’t last the full season. I think I’d be more like this guy, who didn’t even make it more than a day (chronicled in the LA Times with the apt title “A day in the strawberry fields seems like forever”). But then again, I am all in favor of immigration.