Opponents of immigration reform usually accuse immigrants of “stealing” jobs from U.S. citizens, but official data shows that they have little or nothing to do with unemployment in various zones in the U.S., according to a study released today.
Debunking the anti-immigrant myth
The study by the Immigration Policy Center (IPC) seeks to debunk the myth propagated by anti-immigrant groups that foreigners are taking jobs away from those born in the United States, especially during times of economic crisis.
If that were true, the IPC researchers argue, then there would be high unemployment rates in the areas of the country where there is a strong immigrant presence, especially newcomers ready to work for less and in bad conditions.
However, an analysis of Census data “clearly reveals that this is not the case and that, in fact, there is little relationship between recent immigration and unemployment rates at the regional, state or county level,” stresses IPC, which is based in Washington.
The 12-page study focuses on the impact of newcomers – not those who have been established for a long time in the United States – because a large part of the debate about immigration in Washington “centers on the effect of more recent immigrants, rather than those who came decades ago.”
There is no proof
The reasoning is that immigrants who came a long time ago and now have roots in the United States are more likely to have obtained citizenship and be “deeply integrated into the economy”, IPC explains.
The analysis, which examines the economic conditions in the country’s 3,140 counties shows that the places with high unemployment rates “do not necessarily have a large number of recent immigrants”, and vice-versa.
That is to say that unemployment in given locations doesn’t offer any indication as to the number of recent immigrants who live there, nor does the number of immigrants provide an indication of what the unemployment rate might be.
Recent immigrants are 8.4 percent of the population in the Pacific region, in states such as California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska and Hawaii, and only 2.8 percent in states such as Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin, in the north-central part of the country.
In both regions, the unemployment rate is virtually the same: 10.8 percent in the Pacific region, and 10 percent in the other area.
Going where the work is
There are other examples: recent immigrants are 7.3 percent of the population in New Jersey, but only 0.8 percent in Maine, and in those states unemployment is 8.3 and 8.1 percent, respectively.
On average, recent immigrants are 3.1 percent of the population in counties with high unemployment rates exceeding 13.4 percent, the study shows.
Foreigners in that category are 4.6 percent in counties with levels of unemployment less than 4.8 percent.
The IPC researchers also noted that the highest rates of unemployment were in counties with a lot of manufacturing activity and in rural areas, places that in and of themselves have a relatively low number of recent immigrants.
Moreover, the analysis argues, newcomers tend to go where the jobs are – to metropolitan areas and non-manufacturing counties where unemployment is low.
According to the IPC researchers, the absence of a reliable statistical link between newcomers and unemployment should not be a surprise since they are an extremely small part of the United States labor force.
According to IPC, those who came in the last decade were, in 2008, barely 5.5 percent of the country’s workforce.
The study center added that, following historical trends, demand for labor continues to determine immigration to the United States – it increases in times of economic expansion and contracts in lean times, as is occurring during the current recession.
Untying the Knot
(2 of 3 parts of the IPC study are available online in PDF)