2004 October 27 Wednesday
Immigration Driving Up Native Unemployment

The Center for Immigration Studies has a new report out on how immigrants are driving down native labor market participation.

The recovery from the recession of 2001 has been described as “jobless.” In fact, an analysis of the latest Census Bureau data shows that between March of 2000 and March of 2004, the number of adults working actually increased, but all of the net change went to immigrant workers. The number of adult immigrants (18 years of age and older) holding a job increased by over two million between 2000 and 2004, while the number of adult natives holding a job is nearly half a million fewer. This Backgrounder also finds that the number of adult natives who are unemployed or who have withdrawn from the labor force is dramatically higher in 2004 than it was in 2000. These findings raise the possibility that immigration has adversely Affected the job prospects of native-born Americans.

Among our findings:

  • Between March of 2000 and 2004, the number of unemployed adult natives increased by 2.3 million, while the number of employed adult immigrants increased by 2.3 million.
  • Half of the 2.3 million increase in immigrant employment since 2000 is estimated to be from illegal immigration.
  • In addition to a growth in unemployment, the number of working age (18 to 64) natives who left the labor force entirely has increased by four million since 2000.
  • Even over the last year the same general pattern holds. Of the 900,000 net increase in jobs between March 2003 and 2004, two-thirds went to immigrant workers, even though they account for only 15 percent of all adult workers.
  • In just the last year, 1.2 million working-age natives left the labor force, and say that they are not even trying to find a job.
  • Immigrant job gains have occurred throughout the labor market, with more than two-thirds of their employment gains among workers who have at least a high school degree.
  • There is little evidence that immigrants take only jobs Americans don’t want. Even those occupations with the highest concentrations of new immigrants still employ millions of native-born workers.
  • The decline in native employment was most pronounced in states where immigrants increased their share of workers the most.
  • Occupations with the largest immigrant influx tended to have the highest unemployment rates among natives.
  • ...

  • Recent immigration has had no significant impact on the nation’s age structure. If the 6.1 million immigrants (in and out of the labor force) who arrived after 2000 had not come, the average age in America would be virtually unchanged at 36 years.

It would be an oversimplification to assume that each job taken by an immigrant is a job lost by a native. What is clear is that the current economic downturn has been accompanied by record levels of immigration. Given the labor market difficulty of many natives, the dramatic increase in the number of immigrants holding jobs certainly calls into question the wisdom of proposals by both presidential candidates to increase immigration levels further. While the findings of this study may seem stark, they are consistent with other research on this subject.

The last bullet point about immigration not lowering average age is very strong evidence that immigration is making the aging population fiscal crisis larger, not smaller.. Immigrants who are as old as the existing population who make less money and pay less in taxes are net liabilities. Immigrants who push natives out of the labor force also drive down the amount of taxes that natives will pay and the amount that natives will save for their retirement. This makes the unfunded retirement liabilities problem bigger still.

The retirement of the baby boomers is going to bring on an enormous US federal government financial crisis. Whether the unfunded liability is $53 trillion (according to the previous link) or $70 trillion and growing it is enormous and it will cause both large tax hikes and benefits cuts. Thehuge sovereign debts due to aging populations are growing.

The scale of the building crisis is being ignored in the US election and in political debates in other countries. George W. Bush and John Kerry compete to make more damaging proposals for immigration policy changes. Bush's half-baked immigrant worker permit proposal will make the plight of lower class Americans even worse and will not decrease illegal immigration. John Kerry wants another illegal alien amnesty. We are in huge financial trouble. We can not afford more stupidity. Low skilled immigrants make our financial situation worse while raising crime rates and increasing a whole assortment of social pathologies. Current immigration policy is lowering the quality of life a growing portion of the American population. We need to reverse course rather than pile on with more business as usual.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2004 October 27 12:53 PM  Immigration Economics

Brock said at October 27, 2004 1:43 PM:

Randall -

As I'm sure you're aware, Medicare is a much bigger problem than SS. If your hopes come true, and a Aubrey De Grey and his merry band invent SENS, this will alleviate the SS problem but not the Medicare problem. To make people young and healthy enough to work will be a hugely expensive undertaking, one which people will no doubt demand the Gov't pay for. Do you see a way out of this trap?

Randall Parker said at October 27, 2004 2:16 PM:


What I actually expect to see happen is a reduction of federal funding for biomedical research. The money will be cut in order to have more money to treat diseases of people who are already sick. I expect a shift to more of a short-term focus.

Do I see a way out of all that is going wrong? Sure. But I do not expect the really good ideas to have much chance of getting put into practice.

Eventually SENS will happen. But it will probably happen a couple of decades later than it could happen if we pursued it with extreme urgency now.

I expect SENS to lower the cost of Medicare. My guess is that it will be cheaper to keep people young than to treat them for old age diseases. Remember, if people become young again they become young enough to work again. Then they start earning incomes and getting medical benefits from their jobs. Then they do not need government help.

Luke Lea said at October 27, 2004 2:27 PM:

Concerning the number of native born who are dropping out of the work force: the issue, of course, is wages, not whether native born Americans will or will not do certain kinds of jobs. I expect to see a quickening in the decline of average real wages over the next few years, fueled not only by immigration but equally, or perhaps more so, by trade. The Democrats would seem to be the obvious party to respond to this problem, if they can ever take off their politically correct blinders. Sooner or later they are going to have to. Reality calls.

John S Bolton said at October 27, 2004 9:34 PM:

From the above information, it can be determined that the immigration policies have displaced millions of Americans from their jobs, in just four years. There is an omerta on mentioning this; because, if it becomes generally known, the anti-immigrationism in the country will reach overwhelming proportions. The poll numbers would go from 60-70, to 80-90%, wanting large reductions in immigration. There is another omerta on speaking of the immigration effect on average age in the country; which is above pointed out to be zero to negligible.

John S Bolton said at October 27, 2004 9:56 PM:

Correcting the above comment; what can be gathered is that millions of citizens have been displaced from jobs in the last four years. This would be either from jobs which they had, or from those which they otherwise would have had. The fact that the pro-immigrationists have to lie in order to propagandize for their preferences, should be a warning to us. It means that no reasonable arguments are available even to the most brilliant and learned scholars in the world, to support mass anti-merit immigration here. The average age does not decline; the mass displacement of workers does occur; the net public subsidy of foreign-born is not zero, but hundreds of billions a year; our standards are made to decline; ethnic hostilities worsen; the welfare state is induced to grow cancerously; and there is not a cultural flowering, but a wilting and a dessication. The next step for the government, as seen in other countries, will be the need to establish censorship to prevent the people from finding out about these and other alarming negatives stemming from such policies.

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