Immigration Reform 2013: There's Rarely Competition Between Low-Skilled Immigrants And Americans, Study Says

  on
Immigration
Immigrants account for more than half of the less-skilled workers in America.

Low-skilled immigrants rarely compete with their American counterparts for jobs, but rather complement the workforce, a new study by two right-leaning groups said. The finding refutes claims made by immigration reform opponents and strengthens advocates’ arguments as the Senate continues to debate a 2013 bill containing a new visa option for low-skilled temporary workers.

The study, titled “Filling the Gap: Less-Skilled Immigration in a Changing Economy,” was written by the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank, and ImmigrationWorks USA, a right-leaning, pro-immigration group. Both are based in Washington, D.C. The two groups relied on data from the U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey and the Labor Department’s Occupational Information Network for comparison.

Here are some of the findings of that research:

More-Educated Workforce Leaves Gaps Filled By Immigrants

The majority of Americans in the 1950s didn’t complete high school and now that number is less than five percent. Immigrants also make up more than half of the less-skilled workers in the nation and one in six workers overall. The type of jobs these immigrants fill can't be shipped offshore or easily automated, researchers say; these jobs are also pretty routine and labor intensive.

They Go For Different Jobs

Believe it or not, low-skilled immigrants and low-skilled Americans have comparative advantages and tend to use that to their benefit. For example, immigrants tend to hold jobs that are more physically demanding, while Americans have jobs that require better communication skills and the management capabilities. As a result, the researchers found that more low-skilled immigrants are employed in such trades as groundskeeping and general maintenance, while the top jobs for their American counterparts are in transportation and material-moving.

Location, Location, Location

The two groups of workers also don’t live in the same place. Immigrants tend to go for areas where there's a boom or in states known as an “immigrant gateway,” such as California and New York. That isn't to say low-skilled American workers don’t live in these places, just that there tends to be fewer of them. Another thing researchers found is that immigrants are more willing than Americans to move anywhere in the country in search of job opportunities. Indeed, after Hurricane Katrina, did you know that about 100,000 immigrants moved to Louisiana in 2005? They helped with rebuilding-related tasks.

“This ready mobility is one of the key ways low-skilled immigrants contribute to U.S. economic growth,” the research read. “Low mobility is sand in the wheels of the labor market: it slows the pace of growth in booming regions while prolonging slumps in others.”

Join the Discussion