Immigrants Might Improve the Economy


Polls have repeatedly shown that the majority of Americans believe immigrants hurt our economy and steal valuable jobs, but a new report paints a much different picture.

Industries that employ more immigrants tend to be more productive, allowing them to hire more workers, according to a study from the National Bureau of Economic Research. At the same time, the availability of cheap labor incentivizes these companies to keep doing business in this country, rather than move elsewhere and take jobs with them. This results in more jobs being available at home.

The study, which was conducted by researchers at Bocconi University in Italy and the University of California, Davis, analyzed 58 manufacturing industries between 2000 and 2007, and found that immigrant labor actually helped boost the number of Americans employed in these industries.

“In spite of the widely held belief that immigrants and offshoring are reducing the job opportunities of natives, we actually find that sectors with a larger increase in global exposure (through offshoring and immigration) fared better than those with less exposure,” the researchers noted in the study.

The study also found that because immigrants are generally less educated, they usually work in “more manual-routine tasks,” and therefore do not compete for the same jobs as most Americans. So while they may help businesses to expand and increase the number of jobs available, immigrants do not generally capture many of the available jobs that average Americans would want.

Of course, this latter point may be hard to accept for many Americans, in light of the high unemployment rate. One recent study from the Pew Hispanic Center found that in the year following the end of the recession in June 2009, American-born workers lost more than 1 million jobs, while immigrants gained more than 650,000 positions. It’s unclear how many of those jobs American-born workers would actually be willing to take, though.

In fact, earlier this year, the United Farm Workers launched the Take Our Jobs campaign, in which they encourage Americans to try their hand at working one of the farm jobs that typically go to illegal immigrants. After four months, just seven people had signed up.

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