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By W. Gardner Selby December 2, 2011

David Frum says foreign-born individuals filled 80 percent of the Texas jobs added from 2009 into 2011

Commentator David Frum, exploring the state of his Republican Party, recently wrote that disaffected white voters have "been plunged into a mood of pessimism and anger since 2008." One reason is that U.S. employers lately prefer foreign-born workers, Frum said in his Nov. 29, 2011, New York magazine article titled "When did the GOP lose touch with reality?"

Adding a Texas touch, Frum said: "Eighty percent of the net new jobs created in the state of Texas since 2009 went to the foreign-born."

That many? We were curious.

On Frum’s behalf, Noah Kristula-Green, managing editor of the online FrumForum, told us that he relied on a September 2011 memo posted by the Center for Immigration Studies, a think tank that supports reducing illegal immigration. That memo, drawing on information gathered by the Current Population Survey taken by the U.S. Census Bureau, states that 81 percent of the jobs created in Texas since 2007 — not 2009, as Frum writes — "were taken by newly arrived immigrants (legal and illegal)."

By email, Frum told us that his two-year misstatement was a typo.

And how did the center come to its estimate of immigrants filling new Texas jobs?

The memo says that total Texas employment increased by 279,000 between the second quarter of 2007, right before the national recession began, and the second quarter of 2011, the most recent quarter for which data were available. And, it says, answers to the surveys taken by the Census Bureau suggest that immigrants who arrived in the United States in 2007 or later filled 225,000 of the gained jobs.

The memo estimates that half of those 225,000 newly arrived immigrants were in Texas illegally — a conclusion traced in part to assuming illegal residents are disproportionately young, male, unmarried, younger than 40 and have little schooling. It says too that, over all, 40 percent of the jobs gained in Texas over the four years went to recent legal immigrants with 40 percent filled by illegal immigrants.

Generally, the memo says, this "means that in Texas — one of the few states that experienced job growth after 2007 — native-born workers benefited little from this growth."

Then again, as noted by PolitiFact in an October 2011 fact check considering the memo,  the center’s researcher, Steve Camarota, presented calculations using two sets of numbers. The one that Frum relied upon solely took into account immigrants who recently came to the state. Another calculation took that tally and subtracted immigrant departures and deaths--concluding that the net increase in 150,000 immigrant workers over the four years equaled 53.6 percent of the overall growth of 279,000 jobs.

Jeffrey S. Passel, senior demographer for the Pew Hispanic Center, an independent research organization, separately told PolitiFact that there are "lots of methodological problems with the CIS study, mainly having to do with the limitations of small sample sizes and the fact that the estimates are determined by taking differences of differences based on small sample sizes."

In October 2011, the conservative-leaning Texas Public Policy Foundation issued a paper critical of the center’s analysis. Author Chuck DeVore conceded that Texas saw a net job gain of 279,000 in the period. But, DeVore said, there’s no statistical way to conclude how many of the jobs were taken by immigrants. Among his points: The number of Texas jobs churned considerably over the four years, with employees shifting positions as well.

Before DeVore’s critique surfaced, the Dallas Morning News quoted Pia Orrenius, an economist and immigration expert at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, calling the methodology behind the 81 percent figure "misleading." Orrenius was quoted as saying the center’s second methodology — the one suggesting that 54 percent of gained jobs were filled by immigrants — was more reliable and also "typical for the nation."

Mark Krikorian, the Center for Immigration Studies' executive director, told PolitiFact that regardless of methodological preferences, "immigrants still got a disproportionate share of new jobs" in Texas. In our follow-up, Camarota stood by his work.

Our ruling

Aside from having the wrong starting date for the studied period, Frum’s statement relies on a methodology that isolated immigrants recently arrived in Texas, disregarding immigrant departures and deaths and leaving the 80 percent figure in question. Then again, no one has disputed that recent immigrants filled a surprising share (more than half) of the added jobs. We rate Frum’s claim Half True.

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Our Sources

Center for Immigration Studies, report, "Who Benefited from Job Growth In Texas? A Look at Employment Gains for Immigrants and the Native-Born, 2007 to 2011," September 2011

Dallas Morning News, Trailblazers blog post, "Study pins much of Texas job growth on immigrants, but at least one expert sees flaws," Sept. 22, 2011

New York magazine, article by David Frum, "When did the GOP lose touch with reality?" Nov. 28, 2011

PolitiFact, fact check, "Mitt Romney hits Rick Perry, saying 40 percent of Texas job growth went to illegal immigrants," Oct. 19, 2011

Telephone interview, Steve Camarota, director of research, Center for Immigration Studies, Nov. 30, 2011

Texas Public Policy Foundation, report, "The Texas Model: Who Really Gets Texas Jobs," Oct. 10, 2011

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David Frum says foreign-born individuals filled 80 percent of the Texas jobs added from 2009 into 2011

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