Income Distribution to Broaden by Year 2000

Article excerpt

With the United States losing its share of the world market in manufacturing, mining, and agriculture, what is the job outlook for the labor force through the end of the century?

To answer that question, the U.S. Labor Department commissioned the Hudson Institute, a think tank based in Indianapolis, to undertake research on employment, income, and occupational trends. In ``Workforce 2000,'' the institute's published volume on its findings, the most striking conclusion is that, even though the average standard of living will be rising, income distribution will widen as jobs for the least-skilled members of the labor force shrink and jobs for the most skilled grow rapidly.

The changes ahead are likely to intensify social and political tensions in the country.

The study estimates that 25 million entrants to the labor force will be needed by the year 2000. Most of these will be non-white, female, or immigrant workers. Native white males, who now constitute 47 percent of the labor force, will account for only 15 percent of the entrants to the labor force by the year 2000.

Despite the evidence of economic benefits from immigration, Hudson found that only 7 percent of native-born Americans polled favored more immigration.

``It is not unlikely that, over the next 13 years, the political reaction to these voter attitudes will lead to much more restrictive and vigorously enforced legislation and to dramatically reduced immigration flows,'' the report states.

It warns that harsh laws and strict border controls could be the outcome if a major revolution in Central or South America results in an explosive rise in the immigrants thronging into the United States.

But even if no radical border-closing laws are passed, the report warns, a likely outcome of anti-immigrant emotions will be greater hostility between Hispanic and black Americans. By the year 2000, it says, the political relationships between the two groups may resemble those today between blacks and the Irish, Italians and Poles.

Hudson expects living standards for most Americans to rise slowly in the next 13 years. Its ``baseline'' or ``surprise-free'' projection calls for the economy to grow at an average rate of 2.9 percent a year while the rest of the world grows 3.1 percent. This projection assumes that slow labor force growth is offset by faster productivity gains.

Recognizing the hazards of long-range forecasting, it offers two other scenarios:

- A pessimistic projection of ``world deflation,'' resulting from a worldwide glut of labor, production capacity in food, minerals, and manufactured goods.

- An optimistic ``technology boom,'' with the United States rebounding to productivity growth rates comparable to the first two decades after World War II and coordinated international monetary, fiscal, and trade policies smoothing world business cycles and Third World countries getting back on the growth path. …