Migrants in the U.S. do not “take” American jobs or lower working wages, and in fact have had a long-term positive impact on the country’s economy, according to a comprehensive study released Thursday by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.
The study analyzes 20 years of economic and demographic data of U.S. immigration. Within the past 10 years, the impact of non-native workers on American-born workers has been “very small,” and workers who saw their wages decrease were most likely to be prior immigrants or native workers who did not complete high school. Recent immigrants were also more likely to reduce the job opportunities for prior immigrants, rather than native workers.
Meanwhile, some evidence suggests that other sub-groups of native workers and other areas of the economy may in fact have benefited from the influx of skilled immigrants. The second-generation children of immigrants were the most rewarding sect of workers—contributing more to the economy than any other demographic of the U.S. population, including native-born.
“The panel’s comprehensive examination revealed many important benefits of immigration—including on economic growth, innovation, and entrepreneurship—with little to no negative effects on the overall wages or employment of native-born workers in the long term,” said report co-author Francine D. Blau, Frances Perkins professor of industrial and labor relations and Cornell University professor of economics. Blau is also the chair of the panel that released the report.
“Where negative wage impacts have been detected, native-born high school dropouts and prior immigrants are most likely to be affected,” she said. “The fiscal picture is more mixed, with negative effects especially evident at the state level when the costs of educating the children of immigrants are included, but these children of immigrants, on average, go on to be the most positive fiscal contributors in the population.”
Immigration has become a standout issue in the 2016 presidential election, as Republican nominee Donald Trump continues to call for a crackdown on undocumented immigrants on the grounds that they “compete directly against vulnerable American workers” and that they “draw much more out from the system than they will ever pay in.”
The authors of the report said they hoped the findings would “be of use to policymakers and the public as they consider this issue.”
The report looks at research compiled by 14 prominent economists, including, as the New York Timespoints out, the outspoken immigration opponent George Borjas of Harvard University.
Other results include:
- As with wage impacts, there is some evidence that low-skilled immigrants reduce the employment rate of prior immigrants—again suggesting a higher degree of substitutability between new and prior immigrants than between new immigrants and natives.
- Until recently, the impact of high-skilled immigrants on native wages and employment received less attention than that of their low-skilled counterparts; but, as the number of high-skilled immigrant workers has grown, so too has interest in studying their role in the economy.
- Immigrants’ contributions to the labor force reduce the prices of some goods and services, which benefits consumers in a range of sectors, including child care, food preparation, house cleaning and repair, and construction.
- Immigration is integral to the nation’s economic growth.
- Immigration has an overall positive impact on long-run economic growth in the U.S.
The report also finds that immigrants and native-born people with “similar characteristics” are likely to have roughly the same fiscal impact—contributing more to the economy if they are higher educated, regardless of their birth place.
More than 40 million people in the U.S. were born in foreign countries, and about the same amount have at least one immigrant parent, the report states. However, the undocumented immigrant population has remained stable since 2009, with about 300,000 to 400,000 new migrants arriving to and leaving the U.S. every year.