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New Study Rebuts Argument that Immigration Hurts Domestic Workers

file0001220622188.jpgA new study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research counters the argument that immigrants displace native workers from their jobs. This study shows that the reality is quite different from the hypothesis that native workers lose economically when a new workforce is introduced; instead of competing for the same jobs, domestic workers–even low skilled workers–tend to specialize into more advanced professions. The study also suggests that domestic workers do not lose economically, but that the entire labor market benefits.

I have been a student of immigration related activity throughout my career as an attorney. What this study reveals is that many of the most ardent opponents of immigration including low skilled American workers are likely to benefit from an influx of workers. Although there are many issues with allowing immigrants into the country like burdens on social services and potential crime, the economic benefits detailed in this and related studies strongly suggest that immigration rewards most members of the native society.

The study was conducted by noted economists Mette Foged and Giovanni Peri. Foged is a PhD student and lecturer at the University of Copenhagen, while Dr. Peri is an economics professor at the University of California, Davis. The study was conducted using data from Denmark over a period from 1991 through 2008. During this period, Denmark experienced a large influx of workers from Bosnia, Somalia and Iraq. Peri and Foged examined the job upgrading and downgrading, wages and employment, and occupational complexity of Danish workers.

The conclusion of this study was that, contrary to public opinion, native workers did not experience an added risk of unemployment. Although native workers did become more mobile across firms and geographical locations, they were not at any greater risk of losing their jobs. Instead of displacing native workers from their jobs, the study found that native workers were afforded the opportunity to specialize into more complex occupations. While immigrant workers were utilized as manual laborers without particular skill, the workers that had previously filled such roles were allowed to obtain more advanced training and skills which improved their earning power.

In a prior study conducted by Dr. Peri, he posited that a similar mechanism had been observed in the United States from 1960 to 2000. This analysis also found that immigrant workers took manual labor jobs, allowing the American workers who had previously served in these positions to obtain new skills and ascend the occupational structure. Native workers also migrated into jobs that necessitated well developed language skills, and the wages for these positions tended to rise.

As an immigration attorney, I have represented many clients who have sought employment in the United States. The common misconception that these immigrant workers scavenge jobs that would go to native workers is one that has long held sway in many anti-immigrant circles but with the publication of this latest study, perhaps anti-immigrant groups will re-examine their position.

Lyttle Law Firm, PLLC has helped many clients resolve employment issues involving immigration or family law. To learn how Lyttle Law Firm can assist you, please call (512) 215-5225.