Even Liberal Academics Agree: Immigration is Bad for American Workers

Published on April 20th, 2011

by Joe Guzzardi
April 8, 2011

Earlier this month, Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman declared that Washington has “given up” on jobs. Although the liberal New York Times columnist staunchly supports President Barack Obama, Krugman consistently criticizes his economic policies. During his March 27 This Week interview, Krugman summed up the job crisis by saying that the 8.8 percent unemployment rate is “still terrible”.

Obama may have thrown in the towel on jobs. But it would be oh-so-easy to tighten up his administration’s immigration policy to give struggling American workers a much needed boost. Currently, the United States admits more than one million legal immigrants a year. Most enter on visas that provide immediate working privileges.

Although Krugman understands immigration’s negative impact on employment, his interview neglected to mention the correlation. In a previous blog, Krugman described how immigration leads to lower and wages and fewer jobs: “Immigration reduces the wages of domestic workers who compete with immigrants. That’s just supply and demand; we’re talking about large increases in the number of low-skill workers relative to other inputs into production, so it’s inevitable that this means a fall in wages."

In the last several weeks, concerns about the unemployment rate have grown more grave because the few jobs that have been created during the last two years pay between $9 and $12 an hour, far less than a living wage. More disturbingly, the trend toward low paying jobs is here to stay. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that most of the jobs growth over the next decade will be low-paying. By 2018 nearly 400,000 food preparation and service jobs will be created (average pay: $16,430) while only 11,100 financial examiner jobs (average pay: $70,930) will be created.

Further to American workers’ detriment, in August 2010 the Fiscal Policy Institute found native unemployment higher than immigrant unemployment, 10.9 versus 8.8 percent. And in its October 2010 report titled “After the Great Recession: Foreign-Born Gain Jobs, American-Born Lose Jobs,” the Pew Hispanic Center confirmed that from June 2009 to June 2010, foreign-born workers gained 656,000 jobs while native-born lost 1.2 million. Assuming the American worker job displacement continues, as it will without a more restrictive immigration policy, foreign-born U.S. residents will be employed while American will not.

Looking at immigration policy from a non-partisan perspective, there are many negatives which can’t be logically challenged but about which few on Capitol Hill will debate. To ignore them is intellectually dishonest.

Net benefits to the U.S. economy from immigration are small. Realistic estimates indicate that since 1980, immigration has raised the total income of native-born Americans by no more than a fraction of 1 percent. Immigration hurts many of the financially worst-off native-born Americans, especially minorities. The subject’s most authoritative study authored by Harvard University professors George Borjas and Lawrence Katz titled “Searching for the Effect of Immigration on the Labor Market” estimates that U.S. high school dropouts would earn as much as 8 percent more if it weren’t for immigration, especially Mexican immigration where many have less formal education than other new arrivals. Save for immigrants themselves and employers who may exploit them, few Americans profit from Washington D.C.’s autopilot approach to immigration.

With so many Americans suffering from unemployment, the rising prices of gasoline and food and with their immediate prospects dim, now is the perfect time to reduce immigration and secure our borders.


Joe Guzzardi has written editorial columns—mostly about immigration and related social issues – since 1986. He is a senior writing fellow for Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS) and his columns have frequently been syndicated in various U.S. newspapers and websites. He can be reached at [email protected]

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