Immigration helps the U.S. economy, but it’s not as good for individual workers, particularly those at the low end of the wage scale for whom the increased competition for jobs leaves them worse off, the Congressional Budget Office said in a report last week. The findings both support and challenge conventional wisdom on Capitol Hill, where lawmakers from both parties generally view immigration as a net benefit. The CBO said that’s true for the overall economy, but not for those in low-skilled jobs. The report added:
Among people with less education, a large percentage are foreign-born. Consequently, immigration has exerted downward pressure on the wages of relatively low-skilled workers who are already in the country, regardless of their birthplace.
And there are many new immigrant workers to compete with. Immigrants account for about half of all newcomers to the workforce each year, the CBO said. While this influx does fuel economic growth on the national macro-level, when one explores the individual micro-level impact such policies of uncontrolled mass immigration can be proven to have negative effects on American workers who are forced to directly compete with an artificially bloated labor market, a group predominately comprised of impoverished African American and Latino citizens - those our nation has promised to do better for.
The analysis, done for the House Budget Committee, comes at a time when immigration is effectively off the table as an issue for lawmakers, with deep differences between President Trump, who wants to see some stricter limits and amped-up national enforcement efforts, and Democrats, who want to see illegal aliens granted citizenship in mass amnesties, and who oppose attempts to limit any legal form of immigration, which includes family-based 'chain migration,' a key source for low-educated and non-skilled workers.
The CBO did concede that granting legal status to illegal aliens would give them a chance to improve their situations and that the economy benefits from higher immigration because the overall labor force is more productive, but Rosemary Jenks, the Director of Government Affairs at NumbersUSA stated:
They answered the question that we all already know the answer to — whether expanding the labor force expands the GDP. They completely failed to answer the actual important question, which is how immigration impacts per capita GDP.
The furthest CBO went was to say that whether the native-born suffer or benefit from immigration depends on who’s coming. But the analysts said it was tough to figure out the exact effects of immigration amid other factors such as technology.
To the extent that newly arrived workers have abilities similar to those of workers already in the country, immigration would have a negative effect on wages. To the extent that newly arrived workers have abilities that complement those of workers already in the country, immigration would foster productivity increases, having a positive effect on wages.
But this national economic expansion does “not necessarily [deliver] to increases in output per capita,” or income per person, the report said. For example, business leaders say the nation’s enormous population of immigrants has expanded the nation’s workforce, increased consumption, and driven up housing prices. But that inflow has also shrunk the wages of less-educated Americans.
Logically, the CBO states that for as long as the United States continues to import millions of low skilled immigrants, salaries for Americans in occupations that will be forced to compete with them will continue to be negatively affected. However, the CBO errs in their insinuation that if the United States were to switch from a focus on low-skilled immigration to something that "complements" lower-skilled Americans, say, high-skilled immigration, everything would be better. While it is true that such shifts in national immigration policy would have a positive effect on lower-skilled American wages, it would come at the balanced cost to higher-skilled American workers.
The CBO report contradicts business claims that a bigger economy ensures bigger wages for everyone. Put simply, whatever category of American workers are forced to compete with a labor market artificially inflated by mass immigration - will have negatively affected wages. The only immigration policy that truly helps all Americans is a reduction in overall immigration numbers.
Updated: Fri, Jan 17th 2020 @ 10:50am EST