Immigration and Labor: The Economic Aspects of European Immigration to the United States

By Isaac A. Hourwich | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XII
EFFECT OF IMMIGRATION ON WAGES

THAT wages in many occupations are barely sufficient to provide for the necessities of life, has been established by all investigations of the cost of living. That unskilled labor receives a lower wage than skilled labor, is a truism. That the standard of living of unskilled laborers must be lower than that of skilled mechanics, is the necessary consequence of the difference in the rates of their compensation. Inasmuch, however, as the skilled mechanics are mostly native Americans and older immigrants, whereas the unskilled laborers are mostly new immigrants, the average man with a prejudice against the foreigner overlooks the difference in the grade of the service rendered, and jumps to the conclusion that the American mechanic commands higher wages because he insists upon maintaining an American standard of living, whereas the foreign unskilled laborer is willing to accept lower wages, because he is satisfied with a lower standard of living.

It has been shown, however, that the standard of living of the new immigrants is not lower than that of their predecessors in the same grades of employment, or than that of the present generation of native Americans engaged in unskilled labor in the South, where there is practically no competition of immigrant labor. Granting that the standard of living determines the rate of wages, there is no escape from the conclusion that the wages of the new immigrants can not be lower than those of the past generation of immigrants who in their day were engaged in un

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