Urban Legends 12010 (Updated X 2)

Unwilling to admit poor policy or poor governance as significant to the moribund state of the city by the elected and appointed local leaders, a faction of the city continues to assign blame elsewhere for this state of affairs.

The scapegoat of choice is “social services” which really is code speak for the belief that all public assistance goes to the undeserving Hispanics. Indeed, the prevailing urban legend even posits that recruitment posters are to be found in New York City and elsewhere to recruit Hispanics to move into the city. The reason, of course, is that Montgomery County is imagined to pay higher rates for social services than other counties. Of course, the latter point is flatly false but important to the narrative of what has driven and now drives Hispanics here.

I mean, what else could explain why Hispanics moved here?

Here may be an explanation (from the June 28, 1992 Reading Eagle Newspaper):

Once three huge mills wove some 12 million yards of carpet each year. Knitting mills like the Adirondack, the Warner and the Dean spun out hundreds of thousands of garments, The city had the largest pearl button factory in the workld and it produced more brooms than anyplace on earth.

But the jobs dried up. Many factories were torn down. Some still standing are abandoned shells, skeletons of a dead industrial era.

The garment and carpet industries, which recruited heavily among Hispanics, especially from Costa Rica and Puerto Rico in the 1960s and 1970s , moved offshore or folded in the face of foreign competition.

Well, that bit of history certainly muddies the water around our tidy urban legend. It’s now much more complex to understand the political, economic and social context of what makes the city this way than the false, yet so simple to understand urban legend perpetuated decade after decade. Unlike what we hear — that those people move here for handouts– it appears that many of those people were recruited to work here. Que sorpresa!

Maybe it’s just me but it seems the lessons surrounding economic changes and disruptions from the disappearance of the carpet/textile industries still need to sink in to the collective thinking even today. How can you expect to move forward when you hold on to the false pretenses of yesterday? How many decades, or centuries even, before you adopt policies or strategies that fit with existing reality?


Commenter robertstern802450846 states the folliowing (bold is my highlights):

While I agree that Montgomery County is hardly some sort of welfare shangri-la, the notion that hispanics living there are all descendants of a few people lured to work in carpet mills in the 1960s does not seem to be supported by facts. I believe that the variety mills did not need to import immigrants to fill there unionized jobs and were pretty much gone from Amsterdam by 1960 anyway. Not your usual thorough analysis.

Response: I believe my conclusions are well supported by multiple sources and disprove your assertions above that this did not occur in Amsterdam.  (from Schenectady Gazette, March 31,2002 article by Bob Cudmore titled Anthroplogist Made a Study of Amsterdam:

The Pudding

I’d be interested to see the facts supporting your counterargument that Hispanics were drawn here for the welfare benefits.


Commenter Diane states the following (bold are my highlights):

I too have heard that the mills did hire Latinos for some of the factory jobs back in the 60s and possibly the 70s. However, the Latinos living here now on welfare have moved here to make better use of their welfare dollar which goes much farther up here than in the big city and to get away from the crime. We do not have jobs here, so it cannot be why they move here.

Per Diane’s reasoning, there are no jobs here , hence any influx of people moving here, must therefore be strictly for welfare. Her secondary claim is that you move to Montgomery County to get a better buy for your welfare dollar. Of course, her argument puts forth not a single data point but let’s see if the data supports the reasoning here.

First, the claim is that there are no jobs for Montgomery County residents. If true, then the unemployment rate would be 100%. Per recent figures, the actual unemployment rate for Montgomery COunty is 10% per the BLS. In other words, 90% of people are not unemployed, or indeed, jobs do exist. Also, the notion that people might commute to other counties , such as me, simply do not exist.

Second, for Diane’s claim to be valid, we would expect that each and every person that moves here would be on social services. In other  words, if we know 1000 people move to Montgomery County, then our social services roll would also jump by 1000.

Luckily for us, we can get to some numbers to put her claim to the test:

Using data from NY State Dept of Health , we can calculate the net increase in medicaid and subsistence between 2005 and 2009 as an increase of 1278 adults and children. I excluded the aged and the disabled as likely to move. I also am helping Diane’s argument by assigning the increase in social services solely to those moving here to take advantage of the benefits. In other words, we are ignoring the economic fact that social services usage increases due to economic and social conditions such as loss of job, failing health, et al.

Here is the calculation for the 1278 increase:

Medicaid & Assistance

Next, we have to get a sense of how many people moved into Montgomery COunty from the New  York City area during that time. To prove Diane’s point, we need to show that approximately 1278 people moved to this county as that would explain the rise in the social services rolls. Again, let’s favor Diane’s argument and say that the increase of 1278 is only from newly moved people versus existing residents.

To get a sense of the influx of people , we can use data from the Census located here. As the table below shows, the influx of people from the New York area totals 310 with a margin of error of 373. So let’s again favor Diane’s argument and say that the total is 310+373 or 683.

Where that leaves us is that if we assume every person from NYC is Hispanic and on welfare, we cannot get to the 1278 figure to explain the rise in social services. In other words, there are 600 other people on the social services rolls who are not from NYC and apparently not Hispanic. I’m not sure how we classify the excess other than , in Diane’s view, we are attracting people beyond NYC to move here for the welfare.

As a final counter to Diane’s point, we see that an estimated total of 2592 (margin of error ) people moved into Montgomery County from 2005 to 2009 from the locales as shown below. Interestingly, we see the bulk are not from NYC but rather from closer locales. Anyway, the takeaway is that we had nearly twice as many people move here than appeared on the social services rolls or in other words, not everyone who moves here ends up on social services even under the most gracious, and frankly unrealistic, assumptions in terms of the numbers.

Migration to Montgomery COunty NY

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