National Data | Haitian Immigrants Pretty Useless—But Haiti Still Needs Them More Than We Do
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"For that matter, we don't mind if they stay here permanently", gloated the Wall Street Journal Editorial Page after the Obama Administration took advantage of the January 12 earthquake to extend what the WSJ admits is in effect amnesty to Haitian illegals. (Increasing Haitian immigration is a long-standing but little-known Obama goal).

The WSJ went on: "Haitian immigrants as a group are among America's most successful…."  [Haitian Amnesty| A humane decision for temporary refuge in America, January 16, 2010]

Wrong, of course. Just another immigrant enthusiast myth from the folks who brought you the myth of Hispanic "family values".

Haitian immigrant poverty rates are nearly three times those of non-Hispanic whites (immigrant and non-immigrant). Their per capita income is barely half that of European immigrants and is about one-third below that of the hundreds of millions of non-Hispanic whites. As for their lofty education levels, that myth cannot survive comparison with European immigrants who are more than twice as likely to have a BA or better.

Haitians v. Successful Groups

Haitian immigrants

European Immigrants

Non-Hispanic AmericanWhites




202.6 mil.

Median household income




Per capita income (2008 dollars)




Poverty rate




Food stamp recipiency




% less than HS diploma




% BA degree or higher




Speak English less than "very well"




% in management, professional, and related occupations




Sources: Census Bureau, American Community Survey, 2006-2008 estimates.

Even more ominous, U.S.-born children of Haitian immigrants appear to lose ground relative to their parents. They suffer from lower levels of education, lower incomes, higher birth rates and higher levels of incarceration. (Similar second-generation deterioration can be seen among West Indians, another group much touted by immigration enthusiasts.)

U.S.-born Haitian-Americans are, in fact, among the poorest of all immigrant groups. Their median annual household income—just over $25,000—trails even that of Mexican Americans ($30,000). (For more details, see The West Indian Success Myth, by Richard Hoste, HBD, December 16, 2009).

The 522,681 Haitian-born immigrants currently living in the U.S. represent 5.6% of the country's total population. Anecdotal evidence suggests that they include much of Haiti's educated elite. Certainly the Haitian immigrants' average level education, although much lower than that of Americans, is sharply higher the average education of immigrants from adjoining Dominica (39.8% have less than a high school diploma), although Dominican per capita income in 2008 was $8,712 vs. $1,177 for Haiti.

Implication: Haitian immigrants, although underperforming in the U.S. context, are still the best their country has to offer. A mass post-earthquake emigration, along the lines of 1980 Mariel boatlift from Cuba, would inevitably see a deterioration in the quality of Haitians living in the U.S.

Nowhere is Haiti's "brain drain" more acute than in the medical profession. There are reportedly more Haitian doctors in the U.S. than in Haiti. Most come here on the J-1 visa guest worker visa program. The visa stipulates that doctors must return to their native countries after completing their hospital residency, and practice there before applying to return to the U.S.

But most don't go back: A loophole allows them to stay if they are hired by a hospital in a rural or inner city neighborhood. Medicaid has revved up demand in these areas by providing a massive subsidy for teaching hospitals. [Teaching hospitals, residencies win reprieve on Medicaid cuts, By Myrle Croasdale,, July 14, 2008.]

Meanwhile, Americans are eschewing the medical profession in droves thanks to higher med school tuition and less attractive student loan terms. And dwindling insurance reimbursements, higher malpractice premiums (and increased competition from foreign doctors) have reduced the income that U.S.-born doctors can reasonably expect over their working lifetime.

This demand-supply gap has produced foreign medical schools in which every student plans to come to the U.S.—and U.S. hospitals that eagerly snap them up. 

An unintended consequence: Haiti is completely dependent on foreign doctors to treat its earthquake victims despite having its own medical school.

 Similarly, the World Bank has said that Haiti has "a severe shortage of middle-level managers, supervisors and skilled technical workers," the result of the continuing exodus of talent to the U.S. and other countries. [Haitian Hell | A Government Gone Awry, by William Steif, The Multinational Monitor, December 1985]

The Wall Street Journal congratulates itself: "The U.S. decision to let the Haitians stay is evidence of the generosity that Americans typically show in a crisis".

But what's so generous about stealing the very few educated potential leaders that this pitiful country has been able to produce?

Edwin S. Rubenstein (email him) is President of ESR Research Economic Consultants in Indianapolis.

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