Friday, August 11, 2006

New study finds immigrants no effect on US jobs

One of the mantras continually repeated by advocates of stemming the flow of further immigration, and closing the borders, has always been that the millions of immigrants who have entered the country over the last fifteen years have taken jobs away from American workers. Whether its Lou Dobbs bemoaning the "sorry state" of our "broken borders," or the House Republicans touring the country with their traveling immigration hearings, the story is always the same; "the American worker suffers because immigrants unfairly complete for jobs with native workers." But a new study released yesterday found that there was no evidence to support the claim that increased immigration over the last fifteen years has had any ill effect on the job market for the country as a whole.

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The study, "Growth in the Foreign-Born Workforce and Employment of the Native Born", by the Pew Hispanic Center, examined data from the 1990's economic boom, through the recession and gradual recovery after 2000, and found that at the state level there was no correlation between rapid increases in the foreign born population and employment of native born Americans. The analysis of data from all 50 states and the District of Columbia revealed wide variations from state to state, but no consistent pattern in the relationship between native-born employment and increases in the foreign born population.

Clearly, evidence is mounting that outside of a few contrarian economists like George Borjas (the darling of the anti-immigration crowd), the vast majority of current academic thought leans in the direction of the Pew study in regards to the effects on immigration on the US economy.

In June, a group of the nations leading economists sent a letter to Congress and the President stating that it was their belief that immigration had no ill effects on the US economy or on its workforce when taken as a whole. Entitled, “Open Letter on Immigration", the letter, signed by over 500 signatories, including those of 5 Nobel Laureates-Thomas C. Schelling (University of Maryland), Robert Lucas (University of Chicago),Daniel McFadden (University of California, Berkeley), Vernon Smith (George Mason University), and James Heckman (University of Chicago), clearly stated that immigrants don't take jobs from US workers.

Perhaps even more significant was the study released on Aug 1st by the National Bureau of Economic Research entitled, "Rethinking the Effects of Immigration on Wages." By Università di Bologna's Gianmarco Ottaviano and Giovanni Peri from UC Davis, the study found that there is "a positive and significant effect of immigration on the average wage of U.S.-born workers" and that there is only "a small negative effect of immigration on wages of uneducated US born workers and a positive wage effect on all other US-born workers."

Additionally, the NBER study directly challenged the assertions of Prof. Borjas’ oft quoted study, "The Impact of Immigration and the Labor Market", that has become a cornerstone in the anti-immigration argument.

Using the same methods of analysis of Census data used by Borgas, Ottaviano and Peri dispelled his findings that wages for native born, high school dropouts declined by 8% over the study period due to increased competition from foreign born workers. Instead they found that the wage decline was closer to 1%, and that for 90% of US workers immigration had a positive effect on their wages.

This new study from Pew only reinforces the argument. Using Census data, the study found that other factors such as general economic growth played a much larger role in determining native-born employment rates.

"We are simply looking for a pattern across 50 states, and we did not find one," Rakesh Kochhar, principal author of the report and an economist at the Pew Hispanic Center. "We cannot say with certainty that growth in the foreign population has hurt or helped American jobs."


  • Eight states had above-average growth in the foreign-born population from 1990-2000 and below-average employment rates for native-born workers in 2000. Those states, where immigration may have had a
    negative impact, include North Carolina, Tennessee and Arizona and accounted for 15% of all native-born workers.

  • Fourteen states with above-average growth in the foreign-born population and above-average employment rates for native-born workers in 2000. Those states, where rapid immigration appears to have not harmed nativeborn workers, included Texas, Nevada and Georgia and accounted for 24% of all native-born workers.

  • The growth in the foreign-born population from 1990-2000 was below average in 16 states with above-average employment rates for native-born workers in 2000. Those states, in which the native born may have
    benefited from the slow pace of growth in the foreign-born workforce, include Illinois, Michigan and Virginia and represented 23% of the native born workforce.

  • The growth in the foreign-born population was below average in 12 states and the District of Columbia with below-average employment rates for native workers in 2000. Those states, in which the slow growth in the
    foreign-born workforce may not have benefited native workers, include California, New York, New Jersey and Florida and represented 38% of the native-born workforce.

  • Between 2000 and 2004, there was a positive correlation between the increase in the foreign-born population and the employment of native-born workers in 27 states and the District of Columbia. Together, they accounted for 67% of all native-born workers and include all the major destination states for immigrants. In the remaining 23 states there was a negative correlation between the growth of the foreign-born population and the employment of native-born workers. Those states accounted for 33% of the native born workforce in 2004.

  • The share of foreign-born workers in the workforce of a state is not related to the employment rate for native-born workers in either 2000 or 2004.

  • Many immigrant workers lack a college education and are relatively young, but the analysis found no evidence that they had an impact on the employment outcomes of those native-born workers who also have low
    levels of education and are ages 25-34.

  • Growth in the Foreign-Born Workforce and Employment of the Native Born Pew Hispanic Center

    The overall finding of the study was that, “…the weight of the evidence presented shows … that there is no consistent relationship between the growth in the foreign-born population and employment outcomes for native-born workers. As a result, it is not possible to state with certainty whether the inflow of foreign-born workers has hurt or helped the employment outlook for native-born workers.”

    With each new study released, those who advocate for the curtailing the influx of new immigrants due to detrimental effect on the economy have less and less ammunition at their disposal. Although they will nit-pick each individual study on the merits of its methodology or analysis, when taken in totality, the evidence has become overwhelming in favor of the majority position that immigration has no ill effects on the US economy or its workforce.

    The Pew Hispanic Center is a non-partisan research group whose mission is to develop and distribute unbiased information on topics relevant to the Hispanic community. Like all groups funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts that study a wide variety of controversial topics from climate change and genetic engineering, they make no policy recommendations although their polls and reports are well respected and have been used by policy makers both in Washington and at the state level.

    1 comment:

    reasoned insanity said...

    Of coarse a study by the Pew Hispanic Center isn't going to be a bit made to be slanted toward the mexicans invading our borders. If you believe that, I have have some great swampland in Florida for sell.