Immigration and Employment

David Frum at the Atlantic believes that immigrants really do take jobs from native born Americans, and he states it in the most alarming way possible:

Last month, the Center for Immigration Studies released its latest jobs study. CIS, a research organization that tends to favor tight immigration policies, found that even now, almost seven years after the collapse of Lehman Brothers, 1.5 million fewer native-born Americans are working than in November 2007, the peak of the prior economic cycle. Balancing the 1.5 million fewer native-born Americans at work, there are 2 million more immigrants—legal and illegal—working in the United States today than in November 2007. All the net new jobs created since November 2007 have gone to immigrants. Meanwhile, millions of native-born Americans, especially men, have abandoned the job market altogether. The percentage of men aged 25 to 54 who are working or looking for work has dropped to the lowest point in recorded history.

His article makes many good points, and there is likely a middle ground between “immigration is universally good for everyone” and what he has stated above.

The CIS study cited above does use the BLS data.  But there is more to the story.

  • Immigrants have been leaving the workforce, too.  While the non-participation rate for native born Americans jumped by 10% between 2007 and 2014, it also went up by 8% for immigrants.   For men, the rate of immigrants leaving the workforce has been increasing at a faster pace than for native born Americans, although the percentage of immigrants in the workforce is still higher.  In other words, the immigrants seem to be catching up on native born citizens as far as the leaving the workforce trend.
  • The data this is based on is one big category, age 16 and older.  There is no way to determine, if, for example, the native population was older on average, and thus have been more likely to leave the workforce for retirement.  An older workforce might also be more likely to become disabled.
  • Immigrants made up almost 1/3 of the total population increase from 2007 to 2014, and all of the increase in the workforce.  Do we really want to assume that all the native born who left the work force did so because they couldn’t find work, and they want to come back to the work force?  Also, don’t we want to add new people to help pay for those who are retiring and don’t want to re-enter the work force?

Immigration is not bad.  Manipulation of statistics is.


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