March 13, 2009
By Leslie Cranford
As the Hispanic population in the United States booms, fallacies surrounding the economic and social impact of Hispanics on America thrive. Two Texas Tech University professors and an alumnus argue that there are opportunities within the challenges that many people do not see.
In their new book, “Hispanic Heresy: What is the Impact of America’s Largest Population of Immigrants?” the three authors work to dispel many of the misunderstandings about how Hispanics in America impact the country’s socio-economics.
The book is by Angel L. Reyes III, a 2008 graduate of the Rawls College of Business Executive MBA program and Dallas-area attorney; Bradley Ewing, the Jerry S. Rawls Professor in Operations Management; and James Wetherbe, Rawls College of Business Stevenson Chair in Information Technology.
Perceptions and Misconceptions
The problems, which are well-publicized, pertain to illegal immigration which can burden the educational, social welfare and medical care systems. Income tax may not be collected and labor abuse may occur.
The opportunity, said Reyes, pertains to the historical value of immigrants and their willingness to take on the entry-level jobs and work their way up to achieve the American dream.
“One of the biggest misconceptions that we try to address in the book is that Hispanic immigration is bad for America,” Reyes said. “On the contrary, Hispanics now represent 42 million people in the United States. That population group represents almost a trillion dollars in economic activity. If demographic models hold, by the year 2050 almost one in four Americans will be of Hispanic origin. What a tremendous opportunity that is the workforce and the face of the future of America.”
The positive growth rates in the Hispanic population are not just a result of immigration, but increasingly the result of a higher birthrate among the Hispanic population citizen and non-citizen, state the authors.
A Question of Economics
“We’ve used a descriptive approach to looking at Hispanic immigration,” Reyes said, “and in spite of the vitriol that you hear on cable news and talk radio, we came to the conclusion that Hispanic immigration is actually a very positive thing as it affects the American economy and the United States in general.”
Ewing echoed Reyes’ optimistic comments about Hispanics’ future economic impact.
“When a Hispanic consumer spends money, they’re not just limiting money spent to Hispanic owned businesses. That’s part of it, but there are also jobs being created and sustained for all different types of individuals. And I think if we look at the trends in education, in earnings of Hispanics, and in the demographics age group changes going on we’re going to see those as important factors of this economy.”
Wetherbe explained that whether immigration is legal or illegal, it’s all about opportunity.
“With illegal immigration the challenge really is about a high disparity between the opportunity of where you’re at and where you’d like to be,” Wetherbe said. “A common find for example, is seven to one; that if it’s seven times better one place than another, people will do whatever it takes, and that’s true of all countries. If you’d gone to the Berlin Wall when it was a barrier between East and West Germany, people would smuggle themselves inside of car engine compartments they’d risk being shot crossing a border anything they could do to try to get that better opportunity. The same is true more recently in the United States; people are willing to risk their lives traveling in very perilous circumstances just to get to America.”
Another volatile issue Reyes addresses is the question of immigrants learning English. One camp says that immigrants should be given a bilingual education and another camp that’s equally strong says it should be full immersion and that they should learn English.
“Our book comes out in favor of everybody learning English for a lot of reasons,” he said. “But the most important reason is that to really succeed in America, you must learn English. While a first generation immigrant may never master English, a second generation person, after having gone through our public schools or even our private institutions, will know a fair amount of English. By the third generation, you can almost be assured that the Spanish will be what is lost, not the English. We think it is important because, to succeed in this country in a business sense, in a career sense, you must master English. The global commerce language is English, so we think it’s very important for every immigrant to make every effort to learn English.”
Reyes, Ewing and Wetherbe embrace different political points of view from conservative to liberal. All three authors contributed significant content. Reyes provided most of the subject matter and topics to be covered along with content, stories and perspectives from his personal as well as professional experiences. Ewing did the economic and statistical research and analysis and explained the results and how it impacts the Hispanic community in the United States. Wetherbe provided content including stories, examples, metaphors and analogies to help convey the message of the book. He also managed the overall tone, expression, structure and organization of the book.
The book is available online at www.meadpublishing.biz.