New Research Shows Immigrants May Boost Employment Of Natives
May 17, 2018
By Stuart Anderson, Forbes |
Much of the opposition to immigration rests on the simple – but false – premise that immigrants take away jobs from natives. New research shows immigrants do not increase the unemployment rate of natives, nor do they lower the labor force participation rate of natives. In fact, it appears the opposite may be the case.
“The results of the state-level analysis indicate that immigration does not increase U.S. natives’ unemployment or reduce their labor force participation,” according to a study for the National Foundation for American Policy by Madeline Zavodny, an economics professor at the University of North Florida (UNF) in Jacksonville and formerly an economist in the research department of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta and Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. “Instead, having more immigrants reduces the unemployment rate and raises the labor force participation rate of U.S. natives within the same sex and education group.”
Zavodny used a state-level analysis to research the impact of immigrants for the years 2005 to 2013. She controlled for economic conditions that may affect the number of immigrants in a state. The study found:
- “A 1 percentage point increase in the share of the labor force comprised of immigrants appears to reduce the unemployment rate of U.S. natives in the same sex-education group by 0.062 percentage points, on average.
- “A 1 percentage point increase in the share of the labor force comprised of immigrants appears to raise the labor force participation rate of U.S. natives in the same sex-education group by 0.045 percentage points, on average.
- “There is no evidence of significant adverse effects among less-educated U.S.-born workers, while immigration appears to boost labor force participation among more-educated U.S.-born workers.
- “Having more immigrants overall does not significantly affect U.S. natives’ unemployment or labor force participation rate.”
- The argument that allowing in immigrants means natives must go jobless rests on a mistaken belief about how an economy operates. “One of the most persistent and recurrent fallacies in popular thought is the notion that immigrants take away the jobs of native Americans,” wrote economist William S. Bernard. “This rests on the misconception that only a fixed number of jobs exist in any economy and that any newcomer threatens the job of any old resident.”
While Zavodny’s finding that immigrants may actually increase – rather than decrease – native employment and labor force participation may strike some as counterintuitive, in fact, there are logical explanations for it.
First, Zavodny notes immigrants may preserve existing jobs or create additional ones for natives. “Immigrants may boost consumer demand, start their own businesses, and reduce offshoring . . . of manual-labor intensive jobs in the U.S.,” she explains. Zavodny cites research by Patricia Cortes and Jose Tessada that shows the availability of immigrants to provide daycare and other services increases the number of hours highly-educated U.S.-born women work.
Second, immigrants tend to work in different sectors, in different parts of the country and even in different parts of the labor market within a state, which limits some of the competition with natives.
Third, some natives adjust to additional immigrants by shifting into different types of jobs. “Research shows that U.S. natives tend to move into communications-intensive jobs in response to an inflow of immigrants (Peri and Sparber, 2009, 2011),” according to Zavodny. “This occurs at both the top and bottom of the skill distribution. Further, the jobs that U.S. natives move into tend to be higher paying than the jobs disproportionately filled by immigrants.”