The headline and opening paragraph of an Aug. 11 Business article oversimplified the results of a report by the Pew Hispanic Center on the effect of immigrants on the U.S. job market. The report found that states with high numbers of immigrants did not seem to have higher unemployment than other states. Some experts discounted the methodology, however, saying it did not consider the effect of immigrants on specific industries or on wages.
Study Finds Immigrants Don't Hurt U.S. Jobs
Friday, August 11, 2006
High levels of immigration in the past 15 years do not appear to have hurt employment opportunities for American workers, according to a new report.
The Pew Hispanic Center analyzed immigration state by state using U.S. Census data, evaluating it against unemployment levels. No clear correlation between the two could be found.
Other factors, such as economic growth, have likely played a larger role in influencing the American job market, said Rakesh Kochhar, principal author of the report and an economist at the Pew Hispanic Center in the District.
"We are simply looking for a pattern across 50 states, and we did not find one," Kochhar said. "We cannot say with certainty that growth in the foreign population has hurt or helped American jobs."
Immigration policy is a central issue in this fall's congressional elections. The report's findings appear to refute the idea -- often voiced by supporters of stricter immigration laws -- that foreign workers depress wages and take jobs from American workers, especially those with less education and fewer skills.
In the 10 states with the top employment rates from 2000 to 2004, for example, five states showed a high influx of immigrants while the other five showed little growth in the foreign-born population. "Even in relatively slow economic times, a relationship fails to reveal itself," Kochhar said.
The Pew Hispanic Center is one of several research groups funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts to develop and distribute unbiased information on controversial topics, such as climate change and genetic engineering. The Pew Hispanic Center has published respected polls and reports on the role of Hispanics in the United States.
The study used Census Bureau data to compare the influx of immigrants and unemployment rates in each state between 1990 and 2000, a period of robust economic growth, and between 2000 and 2004, a period of slower growth.
Some economists expressed reservations about the technique yesterday, arguing that such broad statewide data do not give an accurate picture of immigration's effects on the labor market.
"There's an age, gender and educational component to this story that this report does not address," said Andrew Sum, director of the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University.
Between 1990 and 2000, he said, immigrant workers did not take jobs away from American workers "because the strong economy was creating enough jobs to employ everyone who was looking for work." But in the past five years, a subset of the workforce -- native-born men age 16 to 24 with high-school diplomas -- have in fact been displaced by immigrants, he said.
"We argue that immigrant labor has changed the nature of work in a very negative way," Sum said.