We all know that NC Republicans like scary stories about our Driver's License laws, particularly about how easy access means that terrorists are carrying ID cards. Never mind that there's no evidence that that's true. Never mind that the state legislature is already working on tightening license laws. Who needs facts when you've got ... Nate? Over at NC Rumors, Republican state senate candidate Nathan Tabor tries to increase the fear factor by relying on numbers that are just plain wrong. Some people might call that "lying," but the GOP's the party of honor, right?
A lot of changes have been taking place in North Carolina over the past few years. Did anyone happen to notice that the illegal immigration population in North Carolina jumped 43% in 2004?
That would be alarming—if it were anything like the truth. Unlike most bloggers, Tabor doesn't provide links to his sources, so I had to fill in some blanks to figure out what he was talking about. The truth is that the 43% number most likely comes from a misreading of research results that is so eggregious that it points to either incompetence or dishonesty.
Google "north carolina 2004 43% immigration" and you'll find this Americans for Legal Immigration page, which says that "from 2000 to 2004, North Carolina's illegal immigrant population grew 43 percent." Their source is a Pew Hispanic Center study which does estimate the undocumented migrant population in NC for 2002-2004 to be 300,000 (page 6). But where did the 43% figure come from?
Next stop: the Office of Immigration Statistics and a publication called "Estimates of the Unauthorized Immigrant Population Residing in the United States: 1990 to 2000" (PDF). Here (on page 7) you'll find a government estimate of NC's unauthorized immigrant population for January of 2000: 206,000. 300,000 is about 45% greater than 206,000.
It seems almost certain that 43% is the rate of growth in the undocumented immigrant population in North Carolina from 2000 to 2004. Again, Tabor doesn't give us sources, so it's also possible that 43 is the first half of his ATM PIN, or code for "DC." But it's clear that NC's illegal population didn't jump 43% in a single year, as Tabor claims. It must be nice to feel free of an obligation to tell the truth.
Here's one other interesting tidbit I picked up this evening. That same OIS document estimates NC's illegal population in 1990 at 26,000. That means the growth from 1990 to 2000 was about 800%. Over 10 years, you'd need something like an average of 26% growth every year to see that kind of increase. By comparison, you'd only need 13% annual growth to explain an increase from 206,000 to 300,000. In other words, an increase of 43% in four years is actually a slowing of illegal population growth.
Now I'm not a statistician—I came up with those numbers over a few minutes using the calculator that came with WindowsXP. But I think there's enough to those numbers to make an honest person pause before hitting the panic button. Tabor's attribution of four years of growth to a single year is either dishonest or sloppy, sloppy work. But if he'd spent any time thinking about the statistics (the correct ones), he might have reconsidered his viewpoint. He surely would have reconsidered his opening sentences.
Of course, there's always the possibility that Tabor is less interested in thinking through his positions than in singing a particular tune. Esse Quam Videri, Nate.