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.
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Study Finds Immigrants Don't Hurt U.S. Jobs
The Pew report found that nearly 25 percent of native-born workers live in states where rapid growth of the immigrant population occurred at the same time as above-average employment prospects. Only 15 percent of American workers live in high-immigration states with below-average employment prospects, the report found.
And the 60 percent of American workers living in states with slower immigrant growth did not consistently enjoy higher employment levels, the report showed.
Locally, the lack of any consistent relationship between the inflow of immigrants and native-born employment was apparent.
In the District, both the growth in the foreign-born workforce and the employment rate for native-born workers were below average in 2000 and 2004.
In 2000, Maryland and Virginia had below-average growth in the foreign-born population and above-average employment rates for native-born workers. In 2004, both states experienced above-average growth of both the foreign-born workforce and native-born employment rates.
On the local level, too, some experts disputed the findings of the Pew report. While educated workers with specialized skills are not likely to be displaced by foreign-born workers, young unskilled laborers have felt the pinch in recent years, said Steven A. Camarota, director of research for the Center for Immigration Studies in the District.
A recent study done by the center shows that the immigrant share of the young workforce in Maryland and Virginia nearly doubled in the past five years, peaking at 22 percent and 15 percent, respectively, in 2005.
"Native workers who have little education in Maryland and Virginia are dropping out of the labor markets in droves" as the number of immigrants grows, he said. "Unskilled workers only account for a fraction of the total economic output, but if immigration plays a role in even a part of [the trend], that's something we should be concerned about."
Census data and estimates show the United States had 28 million immigrants -- legal and illegal -- age 16 and older in 2000, an increase of 61 percent from 1990. By 2004, there were 32 million. The majority are Latinos, followed by Asians. The Pew study did not distinguish between legal and illegal immigrants.
The report pointed out that immigrants typically move to booming areas of the country with low unemployment rates.
"It's unclear as to whether immigrant workers help to cause that boom, but they certainly haven't detracted from it," said Randy Capps, a senior research associate at the Urban Institute.