Immigration-Poverty Connection Missing in Harvard Report

By Jerry Kammer and Jerry Kammer on December 2, 2009

The Nieman Foundation at Harvard has just published a sharp-edged attack on the press for failing to cover the rise of poverty in the United States. Written by investigative reporter John Hanrahan, it is available at the foundation's website.

The report begins with this introduction:

Jeffrey Sachs, a leading figure on world poverty, says the American press follows the lead of politicians by zeroing out coverage of poverty at a time when 'the U.S. has the greatest income inequality, highest per capita prison population and worst health conditions of all high-income countries.'

Hanrahan cites Census Bureau data showing that African-Americans and Latinos had the highest poverty rates in 2008. But the report makes no mention of the connection between the growth of the country's poor population and the growth of its population of poorly educated, unskilled immigrants, primarily from Latin America.

The Brookings Institution cited the connection in a 2003 report on the rapid spread of poor neighborhoods across Southern California. The Brookings report made this observation:

Immigrants experience high poverty for a variety of reasons, including issues of acculturation, English language ability, and low skill and education levels that translate into lower earnings and lower economic mobility. The continued increase in neighborhoods with concentrated poverty in the 1990s, in part, may reflect increasing numbers of second-generation immigrants -- native-born children with foreign-born parents who continue to live in poverty.