If You Can’t Dazzle Them With Brilliance, Baffle Them With…Statistics

Quartz, an online media outlet for international business professionals,styles itself as a provider of, “bracingly creative and intelligent journalism that’s built for users first.” And it claims, “We help our audience see around corners, navigate disruption in their industries, build fulfilling careers, broaden their views of the world, and enjoy lives rich with culture.”

It recently put up a hybrid text/graphic post titled, “Three Charts Showing How US Immigrants Are Affected by the Coronavirus Pandemic.” In that post, Quartz bends over backwards to suggest that immigrants are somehow suffering more than Americans as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.

But here’s the problem: The charts aren’t particularly illustrative. They simply illustrate that the COVID-19 outbreak is having a significant effect on the economy of the United States.

As a result, the text in between the charts is significantly more interesting than the charts themselves. Although, if you were expecting insightful analysis you would be sorely disappointed. There’s nothing bracing, creative or intelligent about Quartz’s approach. In fact, the textual commentary on the charts just seems to re-hash the painfully obvious: due to the global pandemic, times are tough for everyone.

Here are some examples:

  • Twenty-four percent of maids and housekeeping cleaners working in the US are not citizens of the country. So are 8% of physicians. The former have been told to stay home to limit the spread of coronavirus. The latter are forced to treat patients during a shortage of the protective supplies they rely on.”

Yes, and the exact same thing is true of the 76 percent of domestic assistants and the 92 percent of doctors who are U.S. citizens. How is the situation of immigrants materially different than that of Americans? Quartz never makes that clear.

  • “Non-citizen immigrants in the US make up 6.8% of the workforce. They work in jobs that were deemed essential fighting the virus, and in industries that have seen the large layoffs and slowdowns in recent weeks.”

Once again, that’s a commentary that applies to the total workforce of the United States. And, yet again, there’s a failure to indicate why immigrants find themselves in any tougher position than anyone else.

  • “Accommodation and food services, health care and social assistance, administrative and waste services, and retail trade are the industries that experienced the biggest layoffs in March, according to the latest employment data.”

It may be true that some of these industries have a higher proportion of immigrant laborers. However, the vast majority of workers in all of these fields are still Americans. As a result, American workers in these fields are suffering the same challenges as immigrant workers.

It’s only at the end of the article that Quartz manages to raise the ghost of a genuine problem for immigrants: Some immigrants earn low incomes. And some immigrants don’t have health insurance.

However, even that is not particularly insightful. Any compassionate person can see how it might be tough to be a stranger in a strange land, during a pandemic, faced with a cash flow shortage and no insurance. Nevertheless, Quartz once again fails to show, anecdotally or through hard evidence, how migrants are any worse off than anyone else in America who’s either out of a job, or working in what TV celebrity Mike Rowe would call a “dirty job,” during the COVID-19 crisis.

Unfortunately, Quartz is following an all-too-common trend in immigration reporting. Mainstream media outlets have been showing off all sorts of raw numbers and then claiming that the data they reference supports their open-borders agenda. But when those facts and figures are analyzed in context, they simply don’t hold up. And data without context can be used as a pretext for virtually any argument.

About Author


Matthew J. O’Brien joined the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) in 2016. Matt is responsible for managing FAIR’s research activities. He also writes content for FAIR’s website and publications. Over the past twenty years he has held a wide variety of positions focusing on immigration issues, both in government and in the private sector. Immediately prior to joining FAIR Matt served as the Chief of the National Security Division (NSD) within the Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate (FDNS) at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), where he was responsible for formulating and implementing procedures to protect the legal immigration system from terrorists, foreign intelligence operatives, and other national security threats. He has also held positions as the Chief of the FDNS Policy and Program Development Unit, as the Chief of the FDNS EB-5 Division, as Assistant Chief Counsel with U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement, as a Senior Advisor to the Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman, and as a District Adjudications Officer with the legacy Immigration & Naturalization Service. In addition, Matt has extensive experience as a private bar attorney. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in French from the Johns Hopkins University and a Juris Doctor from the University of Maine School of Law.

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