February 17, 2004

American Dreams

Yes, even illegal Mexican immigrants have figured it out: California's cost of living is insane, especially if you want to buy a house, or four, for that matter. I've been warped by California's costs so much that I just can't get my head around the idea of a house for $70K.

"There are better chances here to save money and buy a house," said David Carranza, 24, a former college student who now works for $8.25 an hour at the Glad plastic wrap plant. "In California, everything was so expensive. But here, we have a better opportunity for a better future."

I don't think it'll have a big effect here, though, as there's plenty of foreign money floating around to pick up the slack (or inflate the bubble, depending on your view), thanks to falling dollar exchange rates. I don't foresee too many Chinese folks migrating to northern Arkansas. Funny how under-educated illegal immigrants have more financial common sense than most Americans. Work hard, save up, avoid debt, and take care of the family. Good to see hard work and frugal living pay off in improving upward-mobility stats.

It is a story illustrated in the latest census data. USC urban planner Dowell Myers, in a study to be released Tuesday, said that foreign-born Latinos are experiencing a degree of upward mobility not previously detected by demographers. "They're turning the corner — and it's a big corner," he said.

For example, 32% of the nearly 1.8 million Latinos who settled in California in the '80s — such as the Carranzas — were living in poverty in 1990, compared with 23% by 2000. Likewise, Latino immigrants from the '70s had a poverty rate of just 17% by 2000.

What does this do to the home country, though, as towns remade by remittances become ghost towns as younger emigres decide to stay in el norte.

Posted by mikewang on 09:10 PM