Economists generally agree that immigration has a positive effect on the economy. Immigrants create new jobs, while also increasing the prosperity of workers born in the United States.
The belief is that immigrants are not necessarily competing for the same jobs as all low-skilled workers in the United States. Instead, immigrants complement low-skilled American workers by creating new jobs for everybody.
Of course, some people disagree, stating that immigrants steal jobs away from low-skilled Americans. These people generally believe that all similarly educated individuals, regardless of where they originated from, generally compete for the same kinds of jobs.
However, a new study proposes evidence that supports the view held by most economists that immigrants are in fact helpful for the economy.
Maria E. Enchautegui of the Urban Institute studied a cohort of 16 million American workers without high school diplomas. Enchautegui found that within this group, immigrants and native-born workers typically have very different jobs.
Furthermore, the difference in jobs between natives and immigrants for this level of educational attainment was found to be much greater than the job difference between natives and immigrants at higher levels of educational attainment.
Enchautegui says that native workers and immigrants with low levels of education not only compete for different jobs, but they actually complement each other in their respective job searches.
According to Enchautegui, this is because immigrants typically speak, read and write limited English, and they have different technical skills than native workers. Also, native workers tend to seek different jobs because of their greater familiarity with the American work environment.
There is some overlap involved, but the most common occupations among native workers and immigrant workers with low-levels of skill are different.
Furthermore, this difference might continue to widen in the future, as more natives of the United States are obtaining high school diplomas. Meanwhile, the number of immigrants living in the country who haven’t graduated high school is increasing.
It is expected that by 2022, more than four million new jobs that don’t require high school diplomas will have been added to the job market of the United States. It is very likely that low-skilled immigrants will do these jobs, while native-born workers will achieve positions requiring higher levels of skill.