There is no doubt that the presidential election was driven by the quality of life question. There are various ways to address the reasons why voters cast their votes as they did. However, regardless of what each voters’ key issue was, they all come down to the notion of quality of life. Whether it was jobs, crime, security or access to health insurance; all of them come down to how the voter feels about their personal quality of life. Mixed into the political rhetoric is the effect immigration is having on the voting population. Clearly, most voters feel apprehensive about immigration. Most of it, though, is linked to quality of life.

There are many components that address quality of life, but I argue that it comes down to three major points of contention: jobs, security and to a lesser extent, culture. The question that I want to address is whether immigrants are beneficial or detrimental to the country. There are those that argue that immigration is changing the cultural face of the country. Culture is a very subjective issue and as such it is difficult to quantify. I do not believe it should be a factor in the immigration debate but there are those that have made it an issue.

In addition to the cultural issue, there are the questions of jobs and their corresponding wages. The most vocal topic, though, has been the issue of security. It has ranged from the threats of terrorism to the rising levels of crime in the country. For each of these issues there are numerous studies created by many different governmental bodies as well as nongovernmental ones. Each side argues adnauseam about the bias in the opposing study and the credibility of the ones that supports their position.

I wanted to address the question of whether immigrants are beneficial or detrimental to the country. For that, I needed to create a data set of metrics that I could use to contrast against the immigration population in the United States. For example, is crime higher in states that are home to more immigrants? Are wages lower or the lack of health insurance coverage higher in states here the immigrants reside.

Over the Thanksgiving Day holiday, I took some time to build a dataset of metrics that I would use to answer that question. Because I wanted to avoid the issue of bias, I used US government data records to compile a ranking of different metrics to use for comparison. However, unbeknownst to many, there is no conclusive data set that conclusively counts the number of immigrants that are undocumented.

I’ll explain this in my next post, but for now, I needed a data set to work from for my comparison. For the undocumented immigrant population, I used the data set created and maintained by the Pew Research Center. There are those that are going to argue that Pew adds a bias to my data set. As best I understand it, Pew Research estimates the undocumented population by taking US Census Bureau population statistics for those who marked themselves as being born in another country when submitting their census and then takes those numbers and subtracts from them the numbers of immigrants processed by the Department of Homeland Security as they are reported on their government reports. The resulting number of “foreign born” from those processed by immigration services gives an estimate of the population that is undocumented.

There are many inherent problems with this model, which I will get into in the following posts. For now, we must accept that although there are inherent issues with the Pew model, it is nonetheless the best model we have to work with.

The rest of my data set comes from US government resources directly. I compiled them and ranked the metrics by states.

Obviously the first question we need to answer is where do the immigrants live.

I decided that it would be useful to compare various quality of life metrics against the immigration population in the United States by states in addition to the District of Columbia. I am using two sets of immigrants, the legal and the undocumented immigrants to compare against the various metrics.

For the two immigrant populations, I ranked them, from the states with the densest populations to the least dense. I did this as well for the estimated undocumented populations.

Starting tomorrow, I am going to be presenting the various metrics ranked from best, for quality of life, to worst for each state. Through the infographics you should be able to see if any correlations stand out for you.

I hope that these metrics allows us a good starting point from which to debate the immigration question. Specifically, are immigrants beneficial or detrimental to the United States. We can debate the documented and undocumented together, as a group, or, if you prefer, we can debate them separately.

I am asking you for a favor, let’s debate the immigration issue based on my data sets and keep other reports out of the debate to avoid endless debates about the quality of the reports. If you disagree on one of my metrics, feel free to point that out to me and I’ll endeavor to clarify it, or correct it as necessary.

I am going to use these data metrics as I continue to address the immigration question in future posts.

Tomorrow, I will present to you my initial data set and my maps correlating various data metrics so that I can address the quality of life question and immigration in the United States.

Martin Paredes

Martín Paredes is a Mexican immigrant who built his business on the U.S.-Mexican border. As an immigrant, Martín brings the perspective of someone who sees México as a native through the experience...

2 replies on “The Immigrant Question”

  1. Legal immigrants are beneficial. Illegal aliens are not because they are picking and choosing what laws they obey. You can soften the words but it doesn’t change the fact. I support modifications to our immigration system, but ultimately the only way to be fair to those who obey our immigration laws is to make sure illegals have a much more difficult path to citizenship and little ability to live in the shadows. Otherwise they will just keep breaking the law. Using datasets to say they are beneficial ignores the fact that a nation without borders ceases to be a nation when enough folks with their own agendas flood in.

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