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Immigration Impact on the Workforce

Updated: Apr 5

People have many different opinions regarding immigrants entering our country. But regardless of what you may think, these are the immigration facts: Immigrants and immigration are good for our country, our communities, and our economy. Efforts to cut legal immigration will keep American families separated, hurt public health, and damage crucial recovery efforts to jumpstart our economy during these tough times. New arrivals to the U.S. help drive business creation, fuel innovation, fill essential workforce needs, and strengthen the middle class. Family-based immigration promotes family unity and integration, all core principles of American values. Many immigrants will go on to become citizens, taking the solemn oath of allegiance to America and the Constitution.

The stigma of our nation comes from our longstanding tradition of encouraging people seeking a better life for themselves and/or their families to leave everything they know to contribute to the United States. “The American Dream.” Severely limiting legal immigration puts this at risk. Instead, we should protect and expand current immigration levels and work to pass immigration reform that makes it safer, faster, and more competent for immigrants to enter the U.S. and begin contributing.

Immigration will positively affect U.S. workers’ wages and employment. How can that be? While simplistic views on the economy might suggest that wages will decline in the short comings as the need of labor increases, this is not the case with immigration for these reasons.

First, immigrants generally do not have an immediate negative impact on the earnings of native-born workers, as native-born workers and immigrant workers complement each other rather than compete for the same job. Native-born workers and immigrants tend to have different skill sets and therefore seek different types of jobs. Thus, immigrants are not increasing the labor market competition for native-born workers and do not negatively affect American workers’ earnings.

To be sure, there are some instances when immigrants and the native borns are similarly skilled and substitutable for similar jobs. Recent research has found, however, that firms respond to an increase in the supply of labor by expanding their business. Thus, an increased supply of labor as a result of immigration is easily absorbed into the labor market as a result of increased demand for labor, without lowering the wages of native-born workers.

Moreover, when one considers how immigration affects different groups of American workers who may be the most likely to compete with immigrants, the positive story still holds true. Research finds that as immigrants enter the labor market, African Americans respond to these changes in the workforce by moving up to higher-skilled—and presumably higher-paying—jobs. In fact, African Americans are three times more likely to transition to higher-skilled jobs as a result of immigration than non-African American workers.

A recent study finds that the rise in immigration between 1990 and 2006, which increased labor-force participation by about 12.5 million, increased the earnings of U.S. workers by between 0.6 percent and 0.7 percent. Applying these findings to the current and expected future flows of immigration under S. 744 means that the earnings of U.S. workers would rise between 0.4 percent and 0.7 percent as a result of immigration.

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