Went to the taping of Media7 last night. The episode, which screens tonight, deals mainly with the Massey University lecturer’s paper that claims that Pacific Island immigrants are a drain on the NZ economy, and reporting of Pacific communities’ affairs generally. The panel is DomPost editor Tim Pankhurst, Barbara Dreaver and Oscar Kightley.
I can confirm that the episode is bloody good, tackling hard questions on important issues in an entertaining way. It’s well worth catching tonight on TVNZ 7 at 9.30pm (if you have a Freeview box — I’ll be getting one now) or downloading tomorrow. It’s also worth watching out for an invitation at Russell Brown’s blog to a recording session on a Tuesday evening at The Classic.
I’ve already posted on the Clydesdale paper, though without having a copy at hand. A pdf file of the paper is now available — not that I am suggesting that it is worth the effort of reading. And it is an effort. But I thought I should take a look myself having blogged on it, and my fears were confirmed.
In short, the paper is not very good, and would not pass a rigorous refereeing process.
Firstly, the analysis is poor.
The first substantive section is headed “The Auckland Economy and Human Capital.” It begins by comparing the economic performance of the Auckland region to other regions in order to determine the economic effects of immigration, given that most immigrants settle here. Auckland’s lower economic performance is described. A possible explanation, apart from poor economic conditions, is said to be the quality of the human capital. A proper study of Auckland’s relative economic performance would entail a multivariate analysis that included a range of independent variables, and this is not on offer.
For some reason we detour through a discussion of the accuracy of the official “points system” to value human capital, and are told that “a logical place to examine the efficiency of a point system to value human is the income immigrant’s (sic) earn in the open market.”
We’ve now moved well away from Auckland, but never mind. We learn, of course, that immigrants earn less than NZ-born members of the labour force. Then we are told, “When the analysis is expanded to include all immigrants, the figures are more alarming”. Except that we are now looking at participation rates, with no explanation as to why we are doing so. Migrants’ rates are lower, which might explain Auckland’s poorer economic performance, we learn.
The possiblility of discrimination in the labour market is raised, but alternative explanations such as “cultural communication differences” and “team fit” may mean that the labour market outcomes (lower wages, less skilled jobs, higher unemployment) are “highly rational”. We then detour through the literature on the economic effects of diversity, learning that the evidence is equivocal (which it is) and consider the ways that “cultural barriers to communication and compatibility” can undermine group creativity.
Do you see the pattern emerging? Broad statistics are trotted out, in fairly haphazard fashion, explanations are examined which fit an argument that employers are “rational” to overlook immigrant labour as it has negative economic benefits, and alternative explanations are ignored or downplayed.
Many of the sources used are not suitable for a reputable economic study. These include an interview with “a local real estate agent.”
Further, the paper is sloppy in its use of sources. Just one example…
Drysdale writes that “Lowe (1997) analysed the availability of good quality soils and the average person’s resource use, and came to the conclusion that 4 million was the optimal population, a figure that has now been passed.” Actually, Lowe did no such thing. He wrote a review of a conference held in Wellington for the magazine New Scientist — not an academic journal — in which he described the study that Drysdale describes. Further, Lowe’s description of this paper continued, “…if trees-for-fuel is taken out of the equation, the sustainable population bounces back to 5 million”; but Drysdale omits mention of this.
And it’s poorly presented. It doesn’t even pass the “first sentence test”, referring to “un-skilled workers” in the first sentence — I always look to see whether an author can write the first sentence without making a mistake.
I’m inclined to agree with another review of the paper that the report “showed poor use of data and failed to back up claims that Pacific Islanders are creating an underclass.” Or any of the other conclusions, I’d add.
It is true that the paper contains “useful information, which was interesting and provocative”, as that reviewer put it. But if we are going to discuss these issues, then it should be done on the basis of high quality research and analysis. Clydesdale’s paper is not a good place to start.
An interesting complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority in 2004 featured Clydesdale.
I must disagree with Pankhurst, who maintains that Clydesdale’s paper is worthy of the attention: Clydesdale is not a “senior researcher”, he’s a “lecturer”. Not at all the same.]