Who Would You Hire?

All other things being equal, who would you rather hire?:

(1) A 17-year-old, with no work history who just seems to be looking to pick up a little extra money for the luxuries of modern life.


(2) A 30-year-old with a decade or more of work under their belt and a family to support.

If you were a small-business person would the fact that the number 2 was possibly an illegal alien really matter to you?

I am continually amazed by people who argue that illegal aliens don’t reduce job opportunities for native-born low-skill workers. Beyond the simple principles of supply and demand and their willingness to work for less money, most illegal aliens bring something else to the work place that most young low-skilled native-born workers don’t:


Most illegal aliens are grownups. They have families to care for and they have traveled far to find work. They show up at jobs ready to put in a full effort for a full day because they have serious responsibilities. They don’t have an inflated sense of entitlement or status that makes them resentful about working unglamorous jobs. When people with such a work ethic compete against the average American teenager they blow them out of the water.

In areas of the country with high concentrations of illegals, the low-skill job market for the native born is seriously depressed. Employers would much rather hire the more mature and reliable illegals even if they don’t pay them less. The lack of hassle alone is worth it.

We can argue whether illegal aliens are a net benefit to the economy as a whole but I don’t think anyone can make the serious argument that illegals don’t hurt the economic prospects of the low-skilled native Americans that they compete against.

29 thoughts on “Who Would You Hire?”

  1. I think that it’ll take more than a mere assertion that illegal aliens are more mature to convince me. I’ve met single, early 20s illegals without any family responsibilities. I’ve met illegals who, irrespective of their maturity, are so far out of the culture that their misunderstanding instructions can emulate teenage flakishness.

    This isn’t to say that on net illegals don’t tend to be more mature than the standard demographic curve of natives would be but let’s not exaggerate.

  2. Having been an employer (running construction, and a retail coffee shop), I will tell you I would prefer to hire a married person over a single one, regardless of immigration status.

    And note that is married, not having kids to support- I had plenty of deadbeats with kids they weren’t supporting anyways. I learned that if a guy is living with his girlfriend, even with kids, he usually turned out to be a lousy worker.

    I have had such bad experiences with lazy, stupid, dishonest American workers that I would consider an illegal for as much or more money, if they would work hard and productively. I am a big supporter of the guest worker program.

    It so happens that my area is not highly populated with illegals, so the question has never come up.

  3. As Mark indicated, if the 30 year old can speak English (happens to be a service job) then hire the illegal, otherwise, hire the kid, IMO.

  4. I suppose I should have added the caveat “given that the illegality in itself was not a factor” to the one doing the hiring.

  5. The inability of speaking English is only a factor in a virgin territory where there was no previous illegal immigrants. It’s never the case where plenty of workers speaking Spanish as in California.

  6. I think the point was more along the lines of “Immigration, selective or not, is denying our own young people from developing the necessary experience and maturity necessary to succeed in the Marketplace.”

    While using maturity as a soft excuse to allow good workers in, it is also a measure of how we will deny our own young from the opportunities, hardships, and potential that they could have been challeneged with only to fail or overcome.

    Why should the US CREATE! innovation, talent and competance, when we can just import it. Maybe we can expose our children who aren’t worth the effort like the spartans did.

  7. So what you are arguing is that we should force young males into unwanted marriages to boost their income potential. That sounds like a plan.

    This is the old concept of – you need experience kid. But how do you get experience if you can’t get a job. It used to be ‘join the service’. However, as noted in the article “Missed Opportunities” further down. That appears to be no longer an option.

    And tell me again why the French youth and Muslims are rioting? Could it be because they can’t get real jobs? What is their unemployment rate?

  8. Don,

    So what you are arguing is that we should force young males into unwanted marriages to boost their income potential.

    Where did you get that idea? Did you accidentally post to the wrong thread?

    At best, marriage is just a marker for increased personal responsibility. People who have families to support are more serious and diligent in their work than those who do not. This is especially true in the case of low-skilled workers.

    Maturity is just one more competitive advantage that illegals have that makes it difficult for native born low-skill workers to compete against them. Grown men and women compete against children for the same jobs and quite often win out.

  9. Then again, if it is an entry-level job, you might wonder why the 30-year-old is still doing entry-level. And it would depend on how closely they were going to be supervised – the older, married one you might be happier leaving alone at night; the younger you might be able to “mold” to your business’s general culture more easily.

    Frankly, there are many variables that influence this. I will say that my favorite employees when I ran my small business were Hispanic males taking degrees in majors that weren’t as theoretical as engineering but had a strongly machine-oriented quotient. They were inventive, respectful, and hardworking. They also had plenty of initiative, were pragmatic, and were respectful while holding their ground on what they thought needed to be done. But that is a pretty thin anecdotal experience.

    One of my hardest workers had already published 40 articles and often forgot to pick up her paycheck over the entire summer – she didn’t need the money and had a strong work ethic. Grades, parents’ salaries, age, marital status – these were not always a good indicator of willingness to work.

  10. 17 year olds account for 4.2 million nationwide, approximately 1 million in the Southwest. There are 12-20 million illegals. I suppose you could add 16 and 19 year olds but anyone older who is still low skilled has got other issues. So if your premise were true, it affects only a very small part of those 12-20 million illegals.

    Each 16 oz bag of Lays Potato Chips is the same as every other 16 oz bag of Lays Potato Chips. But each 17 yr old boy is different fron every other 17 yr old boy. I’m told this is true of illegal aliens.

    So if I’m hiring, I don’t look at age or nationality, I look at how well the person meets the needs of my business.

    If I’m hiring a guy to work in fast food and my customers are high school kids I’ll hire the kid. If my customers are Mexicans, I’ll hire the Mexican.

    If I’m hiring a grave digger, I’ll hire the guy who brings hisown shovel. Absent a shovel, I’ll hire the guy with callused hands and the bigger muscles. But I’ll pay by the grave, not by the hour.

    If I’m hiring a driver, I’ll hire the guy with a good driving record and who knows the fastest way to each of ten locations. But I’ll pay by the mile, not by the hour.

    I’m not going to hire a guy cuz he will work for less money. If he goofs off, I lose customers and it costs me more than I save. If he a hard, fast worker somebody else see that and hire him away.

  11. One factor with hiring teenagers is that so often they have NO experience in actually doing anything.

    My daughters’ first job in college was at a local museum, and they were thrilled that she knew how to use hand tools- like a screwdriver. They were used to kids who had to call maintenance to come tighten up a drawer pull.

  12. With labor market this tight, we may need to legalize more illegals who are already contributing enormously to the wealth of this nation. We need to remember that it is the illegals who are risk-takers, not the legals who are idly waiting to make it here through their families. Also, it is highly unlikely to find illegals waiting at the door of the local social security office. It is the legals who are allowed to live off welfare without contributing a penny.

    Also, more 17 year-olds in the future to fund the social security and other entitlement drains that the retiring baby boomers will put on this country will be a big plus. So all childless couples, please get to work this weekend.

  13. Well Sol.

    That gives lie to the pro-amnesty argument that is most often given, the whole “fruit picker” “gardener” “maid” paradigm of illegals.

    I’ve worked with east Indians and African’s, who know there stuff, and they work here, and they are coming here LEGALY. If the Mexicans who are coming across are just coming so that they can be a “fuit picker” then it is grotesquely cynical to say “be illegal if you have no skills, but don’t come here illegaly if you do!” Whats that? Not to mention, to use the “fruit picker” argument at all is racist, since apparently only mexicans are dumb enough to find joy as a fruit picker.

  14. I think the larger issue is being missed. A small business owner has to weigh the risk to their OWN business, family, and community. Because the two cases were presented as “otherwise” equal, the decision to hire an illegal alien knowing that to do so was a violation of the laws that protect and define the owners ability to even HAVE a business. Thus it should occur to everyone that a small business owner has to have a RATIONAL reason aside from a fallacious amphiboly argument to justify breaking the law.

    For example, an illegal immigrant isn’t going to require (or desire) the owner to register them as an “official” employee with the SS admistration, or dept. of labor, or with said businesses Insurance provider, which saves a lot of money… oopps. Except that if there’s an accident at the business that occurs while an illegal employee is watching the store (or possibly responsible) the insuror has every right to VOID the businesses policy and to refuse to pay on a claim.

    The responsible thing for anyone with a small business who, for sentimental or aesthetic or etc. grounds wishes to hire someone who is currently an illegal alien, is TO SPONSOR THAT PERSON and help get them a valid visa. This is NOT a very difficult process, especially if the immigrant has a guarantee from an employer.

    Otherwise. Please consider that two prospective employees MOTIVES for applying for a job are not applicable if ONLY ONE CAN BE LEGALLY hired!

  15. No Shannon, you missed the sarcasm. You stipulated “…and a family to support.” So the reference about forced marriages. I find it interesting that an employer believes its necessary to have someone up against the ropes in order for them to have power over that employee. There’s nothing about personal development or leadership implied in your choices. Its about control and power. Typical of businesses that view employees not as assets, but rather as unfortunate necessary liabilities. That appears a big motivation for stopping any movement to maintain our sovreignty by businesses. They want an unlimited labor supply. Keeps costs down and profits up. Its not like they’re supporting similar non-enforcement of tarriffs and quotas on imports so consumers could enjoy lower costs as well.

  16. Don,

    I find it interesting that an employer believes its necessary to have someone up against the ropes in order for them to have power over that employee.

    I find it interesting that you interpret my use of the word “maturity” in that fashion.

    My argument isn’t about competition between employer and employee but rather between competing employees. I think that people who are older and who have families make more responsible and reliable employees and thus out compete those who don’t (as a broad rule of thumb). Empirically, this is true of native born workers, why wouldn’t it be true illegal immigrants as well?

    We have a population of established adults who have worked very hard since childhood and who bring a mature attitude towards their jobs competing for the same low-skilled jobs that in the past we have used to bootstrap our young people into the workforce.

    It something like having a contemporary teenager competing against one of own foreign born, uneducated, non-english speaking but middle-aged immigrant forbearers. Even if you dropped great-granddad Schmidt/Lobroski/Como/Takemoto/etc butt naked down into the early-21st century he would still make a better entry level, low-skilled worker than your average teenager because he would be man and not a boy.

  17. Perhaps the writer of the post would lose out in the “speaks english” catagory. The correct form for the title is: “Who Would you Hire?”

  18. Maturity? Is that the code word for subservience just as affirmative action is a code word for reverse discrimination?

    You’re right a 17 year old has nothing to lose when incompetent 19th century style managers run a tight ship demand obedience without any leadership skills. Its easier for them to leave the Captain Bligh’s than it is for someone with a family to feed. Lets re-look what you choose to overlook in my first comment. That posted here in Chicagoboyz’ own front page is an article on “Missed Opportunities”. There you’ll read about the high unemployment of Iraqi War veterans. Those are young men with at least one tour under their belt. Those are between 21 and 35 years of age with self-discipline installed care of their usual first employer, the US military. They have the attitude you seem to want, but it appears they too are unwanted by those who exercise the power of hire and fire. The military was able to train these people, the very same one’s you bemoan, and create a motivated, disciplined, focused individual. How could the military do this? Apparently, its above the skill sets of your commercial managers. More likely, they don’t want to be bothered. Its much easier to impose oneself by exercising power than by leadership. You don’t have non-leadership power if you can’t put them up against the ropes. Wonder how many managers would feel comfortable if their employees routinely walked around fully armed. There seems to be a lack of ’fragging’ reports from the front lines in Iraq these days. Wonder what the level would be in the regular work environment. We got a hint of that in the colloquial phrase ’going postal’.

    Basically your post is about the continued position of management that doesn’t want to be bothered by having to actually expend time and effort in developing employees or to provide real leadership. Its much easier for the ‘boss’ to get people who in desperation will seek employment in that environment. Why bother with ‘undocumented workers’ when we could just repeal the 13th Amendment and use slaves again. Freemen are such a bother. By the way, the term ‘slave driver’ is also a colloquialism.

  19. Maturity in an applicant (at least in my experience) has meant someone much more likely to stand up to me in a respectful manner – because more capable of weighing a variety of variables (including, perhaps, their need for money). Which is more mature – the person who says, we’ve really got to organize this job differently so that we can do it or the person who finds a job difficult or inefficient and walks off the job? Which is more helpful to the organization? Which is more helpful to the employee?

    These suggestions might be impelled in part by the need for a paycheck, but this is only one of many factors. The problem with 18-year-olds is often their ego is bigger than the job. They think everything out there indicates “who they are” – and they have a sneaking suspicion they aren’t much. Well, in some ways they aren’t, not yet. Maturity is a growth in self-confidence which, ironically, limits the need to constantly affirm oneself in silly ways. (I’m too good for this job; my boss was a jerk so I quit – these are not generally said by people with mature & healthy egoes.)

  20. Don..I do think many business managers could learn something from the military about training and motivation. I’d point out, though, that the military *starts* with a group of people who have already been pre-screened: they have sufficient motivation to have applied for this nontraditional (and potentially very dangerous) job, in addition to meeting the formal standards for literacy, etc, which many H/S grads can’t do.

  21. This is one of the salutary effects of international trade and competition.

    A 17 year old who can’t hold down an entry-level job is either mentally damaged or badly raised. By sheltering them from competition, we can kid ourselves that these overgrown children are “normal” and that previous generations that pulled their own weight, raised families, and fought wars at that age were somehow wronged by their society by being “robbed” of their childhoods.

    Just as the influx of Japanese cars ended the plague of crappy cars that had infested this country and improved the quality of American-built cars, letting foreign workers in to demonstrate just what our own children are lacking due to the bad habits of American parents might improve practices here at home.

  22. Of course the employer would typically want to hire the experienced worker with experience while passing along the other costs of that worker (educating his children, healthcare + other social costs) to Joe Taxpayer. Great deal for the employer. Bad deal for taxpayers.

    As for affecting wages, here in Houston, according to BLS, carpenters average less than $14/hour. That’s not beginning carpenters, that’s average for alll carpenters, most likely average = 10+ years experience. Can I ‘prove’ that illegal aliens are the reason for such low wages to a skilled profession? No, but I know it to be true

  23. “Of course the employer would typically want to hire the experienced worker with experience while passing along the other costs of that worker (educating his children, healthcare + other social costs) to Joe Taxpayer.”

    And how is it the employer’s fault that Joe Taxpayer is paying these costs? These employers don’t get to set those policies. Take it up with the people that put them in place and the people that voted for the people that put them in place.

  24. And how is it the employer’s fault that Joe Taxpayer is paying these costs?
    It’s not the employer’s “fault” the taxpayer is paying those costs, but that is the reality of what is happening. In many cases, the employer knows full well that they are hiring someone illegal. In such cases it most definitely would be the fault of the employer who would be knowingly violating the law.. and those employers should be punished like other lawbreakers

    As for your comment about letting foreign workers demonstrate what is lacking here, what might we be so “lacking” in? As of now, we cannot control the fact that a disproportionate amount of illegal aliens enter, many/most of which themselves lack basic educational and job skills. Why should illegals dictate to us that 55% of the immigrants be from Mexico? We should be dictating to them, for example, that we want fewer unskilled workers from Mexico, and more skilled, educated workers from Croatia, Brazil and/or Taiwan

  25. We need to remember that it is the illegals who are risk-takers, not the legals who are idly waiting to make it here through their families

    I love this. Yeah, those who come here in violation of our laws are “risk takers” in the same sense a thief is a risk-taker. I mean, why wait in line to pay when it’s so much easier to be a “risk taker” and steal the camera or clothes, right?

    Let’s cut the BS glorification, and call them what they are – lawbreakers who skipped the line over those who played by the rules and followed the laws

  26. Shannon is of course correct that teens are one of the groups hurt by illegal immigration. But it’s wrong to imply this group is the only, let alone the major, demographic injured by illegal immigration.

    In particular, high school dropouts have fewer opportunities and lower wages because of illegal immigration. Today the unemployment rate for native high school dropouts is around 15% (up 5% in the last 4 years, which coincide with massive influxes of illegals in anticipation of Bush’s amnesty). Thus the focus on the low overall employment rate obscures the tightness of the relevant demographic–low skill, low paid workers. Reducing illegal immigration would go a long way to helping this group of Americans.

  27. All…

    U.S. citizenship is more than merely a “right to work”. The US Republic is a Voluntary Collective that conditions membership, or more accurately, an individual members physical Liberty, on a very basic collection of mutual expectations and ideals. We are a Free people because enough enfranchised adults (and a 17 year old IS NOT an enfranchised adult) treat these simple ideals and expectations seriously enough to fight, kill, and die to uphold.

    The first that springs to mind is the idea of “equal protection under the law”. American’s who wantonly import or employ undocumented, illegal laborers know very well that they are betraying this principal, as an illegal worker has no recourse to due process (in practice) or expectation of protection via law enforcement against their employers. This is especially true if a migrant has a wife and children to support and must weigh his families well being against his personal expectation of justice regarding the American citizen who’s illegally employing him.

    Second. Hiring illegal laborers DOES NOT foster domestic tranquility, as many other posters have noted.

    Third. The common defense is betrayed when a citizen chooses to hire a illegal versus a legal employee if said employee is a male between 18 and 25. This is due to selective service registration requirements… which obviously don’t apply to a 17 year old.

    Most importantly to me personally, is the question of loyalty to the Republic versus personal, individual greed that is the motivation for the vast majority of US citizens hiring illegals on the sly. At the height of the Roman Republic, no less a personage than Cato the Censor ate the same food at the same table as his employees (some of whom were slaves, some of whom were merely servants… it’s impossible to distinguish in that era’s Latin between the two). The vast majority of people on the planet are VERY VERY poor. The vast majority of American Citizens do not, in my opinion, deserve their franchise. Whenever there is a privledged group that is wealthy due to being born into a political system which they themselves abused in order to exploit others, that political system experienced a revolution of one sort or another.

    Having travelled all over the world, and having direct personal experience with many of what are considered the worst hellholes on the planet, I’m VERY comfortable promising those of you who’d open your own Citizenship to competition from abroad illegally, should not be surprised if in the future you yourselves discover that the protections once taken for granted as US citizens are NOT extended to your own children. There’s no shortage of people willing to kill for US citizenship.

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