What happened when the U.S. got rid of guest workers?

Friday, February 10th, 2017

What happened when the U.S. got rid of guest workers?

A team of economists looked at the mid-century “bracero” program, which allowed nearly half a million seasonal farm workers per year into the U.S. from Mexico. The Johnson administration terminated the program in 1964, creating a large-scale experiment on labor supply and demand.

The result wasn’t good news for American workers. Instead of hiring more native-born Americans at higher wages, farmers automated, changed crops or reduced production.


  1. Coyote says:

    What a surprise, “economists” who spout chamber of commerce narrative. Yeah, less production. Sure, lots of automation in 1965. These people were created to spout the political line accompanied by jargon backed up by meaningless credentials in a meaningless science. Oh yes, let us bow down to the mumbo-jumbo!

  2. Lab Guy says:

    I would not object to such a program if these farms could genuinely show that there is a need for these people. LBJ though would turn a blind eye to the hiring of illegals by his rancher supporters in South Texas.

    I have to agree with the commenter above. What was automated? The last few years have brought more picking machines with carrots, potatoes, tomatoes, and other fruits and vegetables. I’m doubtful these were around in the 60′s. My Mom still remembers people picking cotton by hand in the early 60′s though the cotton picking machines had been around since the early 50′s.

  3. Wang Weilin says:

    Hurray for automation! Jobs in manufacturing are a good thing, plus the costs of food production drops.

  4. Bill says:

    How this garlic farm went from a labor shortage to over 150 people on its applicant waitlist (Feb. 9, 2017)

    The biggest fresh garlic producer in the nation is giving its employees a hefty raise, reflecting the desperation of farmers to attract a dwindling number of farmworkers.

    Christopher Ranch, which grows garlic on 5,000 acres in Gilroy, Calif., announced recently that it would hike pay for farmworkers from $11 an hour to $13 hour this year, or 18%, and then to $15 in 2018. That’s four years earlier than what’s required by California’s schedule for minimum wage increases.

    Ken Christopher, vice president at Christopher Ranch, said the effect of the move was immediately obvious. At the end of last year, the farm was short 50 workers needed to help peel, package and roast garlic. Within two weeks of upping wages in January, applications flooded in. Now the company has a wait-list 150 people long.

    “I knew it would help a little bit, but I had no idea that it would solve our labor problem,” Christopher said.”"



  5. Sam J. says:

    The farmer pays less for the aliens and society picks up the tab for all the additional costs. I would rather them plant nothing than add more aliens.

    Actually I bet their cost will go down once they automate. If a car can drive on a highway automatically then surely a tomato can be picked by a machine.

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