Do Immigrants take jobs from American workers and lower wages? New Study

It’s an age old question, one that many people use to fuel their distrust and dislike of immigrants and migrant workers, and it’s being furiously debated right now as a platform in our upcoming election by a very polarized Trump and Clinton.

A new study published from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine , and was published this past week and looks at the research of 14 lead economists, and offers research from both sides of the debate. It presents one of the most balanced and thorough viewpoints on the topic to date. Since the number of immigrants in the US has increased from 24.5 million in 2005 to over 43 million in 2014, it seems like an important point to get right.

Do Immigrants take jobs from American workers? No they don’t…mostly

According to Francine D. Blau, an economics professor at Cornell University who led the group that produced the 550-page report, “We found little to no negative effects on overall wages and employment of native-born workers in the longer term.”

Wage and employment outcomes were tied to the extent to which new arrivals ( or new immigrants) compliment or substitute for workers already established in the labour market.

[It is only]when new arrivals compete with those already in the labour force – for example if unskilled immigrants and native-born teenagers ( or earlier immigrants) are applying for the same fast-food jobs wages and job opportunities for the latter may be negatively impacted…in the short run.

As I have written about before, many immigrants take low paying, or physically demanding jobs that many US citizens don’t want to do. In these cases, which represent a significant portion, the immigrants are actually beneficial to the economy in that they are filling in a labor demand that our citizens can’t or don’t want to fill. In fact the study found that new immigrants really only had the potential to negatively economically impact two demographics:

  1. US Teenagers who had not competed high school: less working hours, but didn’t affect their ability to find jobs
  2. Immigrants who had been here longer, but hadn’t moved out of their initial forms of low-wage labor. New immigrants would be competing for the same jobs.

In fact immigration can create jobs and wage gains for all

When it comes to skilled labor, and specialized areas of study, immigrants have positively impacted our economy in measurable ways. As the report states: “The prospects for long-run economic growth in the United States would be considerably dimmed without the contributions of high-skilled immigrants.”

When we invite or allow immigrants into our country who are bringing skills or specializations that we are not currently filling, the outcome is job creation and a boost to wages becomes a “likely outcome”. The report found a positive relationship between immigration and economic growth saying:

Long run growth requires infusions of labor, various forms of capital – both physical and human capitol – and technology. Given native born fertility rates, and age profiles in the United States, immigrants are the most likely candidates for generating net labor force growth. Likewise [immigrants] contribute to capitol innovation and formation, which also shapes the way and the pace at which growth unfolds.

And finally, recent studies actually show that immigrants display entrepreneurial rates higher than native-born populations, and historically play a key role in small scale retailing like nail salons, ethnic restaurants, child and elder care etc…that help revitalize urban (and sometimes rural) centers.

Current statistics say that 1 in 4 Americans are either Immigrants or children/grandchildren of immigrants. And as this report proves, immigration not only adds to the fabric of our society, it actually helps us grow.

If you have any questions about this or any other immigration related topic, please do not hesitate to contact me at Harlan York & Associates.





Written by: Harlan York

Immigration Attorney Harlan York is Former Chair, Immigration Section, NJ State Bar Association and Former Co-Chair, NY State Bar Association CFLS Immigration Committee. Mr. York appeared on National Television on CBS This Morning with Charlie Rose and Primer Impacto on Univision, as well as Telemundo, NBC, and PBS. He was honored as First Ever Immigration Lawyer of The Year in NJ by Best Lawyers.

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