Jeremy Beck's picture


  by  Jeremy Beck

"[I]mmigration reduces the wages of domestic workers who compete with immigrants. That’s just supply and demand: we’re talking about large increases in the number of low-skill workers relative to other inputs into production, so it’s inevitable that this means a fall in wages."

-Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman

According to Krugman, immigration policy reduces American employment opportunities and lowers existing workers' wages. Even the non-economists among us take supply and demand for granted. Yet, the bridge between the two is one that too few otherwise enlightened journalists have ever crossed. When was the last time you read a mainstream, objective news story about the impact our autopilot immigration policy has on the labor market?

Following the April jobs report major newspapers assured us that the economy is improving. For example, the Wall Street Journal's April 2, headline story read Hiring Shows Greater Strength. The lower unemployment rate and increased job creation, insists the Journal, are causes for celebration. The devil, however, is in the details. While the national economy may improve slightly in some sectors, the outlook for the average American worker is at best uncertain:

  1. From 2000-2010, all of the net employment gains went to immigrant (legal and illegal) workers. That doesn't mean native-born citizens didn't get jobs; it means fewer native-born workers were employed in 2010 than in 2000, despite a 13.5 million increase in native-born workers during that time. This trend pre-dates the recession. In fact, the same thing was happening ten years ago, during the 00-01 recession.
  2. The Bureau of Labor statistics estimates that most of the growth in jobs over the next decade will come in the form of low-paying jobs. For instance, nearly 400,000 food preparation and service jobs will be created by 2018 (average pay: $16,430), while only 11,100 financial examiner jobs (average pay: $70,930) will be created over the same period.
  3. Legal and illegal immigration adds hundreds of thousands new, low-skilled workers every year to compete with today's unemployed. Seventy-four percent of working-age illegal immigrants, and 46 percent of working-age legal immigrants have no education beyond high school.

How much does immigration policy contribute to middle class erosion? To what extent does immigration policy slow the recovery for American workers? Does immigration create a permanent underclass of foreign workers? Why are legal immigration numbers rarely discussed in Washington? These are big questions, the answers to which should generate powerful stories. So far though, the mainstream media has ignored the immigration-American worker connection.

JEREMY BECK is the Director of the Media Standards Project for NumbersUSA

America's Jobless
American workers
Legal Immigration
Low-skilled Americans

Updated: Mon, Jul 24th 2017 @ 3:29pm EDT

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