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Smoke and Mirrors: Assessing the impact of immigration on the unemployment rate

June 09, 2009 - Posted by Katherine Vargas



Today, the editorial writers at the Des Moines Register tackle the age old question: Do immigrants take jobs away from native-born workers?


This question has been posed time and time again— particularly during tough economic times —but, as the Iowa flagship newspaper points out, the perception does not match the facts.


It has perhaps seemed logical to assume that the willingness of many foreigners - particularly those here illegally - to work for low pay takes jobs away from Americans. But it turns out that having a large number of recent immigrants in a location doesn't necessarily correlate with a lot of native-born workers being unemployed, based on an analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data.


One of many examples in the report: Recent immigrants make up 8.4 percent of the population in the Pacific region (California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska and Hawaii), but just 2.8 percent of the population in the East North Central region (Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin). Yet, the regions had similar unemployment rates of 10.8 percent in the Pacific region and 10 percent in the East North Central region as of March 2009.

Another example: In New Jersey, recent immigrants account for 7.3 percent of the population, but in Maine they are just 0.8 percent. Nonetheless, the states' March unemployment rates respectively were 8.3 and 8.l percent.

Don’t Let Fear Distort Immigration Policy, Jun      


By the way, the report quoted in this piece was done by the Immigration Policy Center and it is titled Untying the Knot. The report analyzes data from the Census Bureau and finds that there is no clear relationship between the number of recent immigrants in a particular locale and the unemployment rate among native-born whites, blacks, Latinos, or Asians in that locale.


Restrictionists will continue to scream “they’re taking our jobs” and they will continue to oppose any proposal that offers a solution-based approach to our immigration troubles. But these perceptions are debunked by leading economists like Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan and economic studies that highlight the important role of immigration in our economic growth.


Instead of following our worst instincts, we need to live up to our values and arm ourselves with the truth. Comprehensive immigration reform will get all workers into the system; regularized and protected by labor laws. Reform will level the playing field, improve the wages and working conditions for all workers and it will increase the tax revenues for all levels of government.


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