Wages of native-born disproportionate to immigrants’ wages

Native-born workers in the United States at every educational level experience modest wage increases relative to foreign-born workers in the United States as a result of new immigration, according to a new report from the Economic Policy Institute.

The fact that U.S.-born workers tend not to bear the brunt of new immigration is likely because these workers typically do not compete head-to-head with immigrants for jobs, said the report. Foreign-born workers already in the United States, whose skills (for example, language) closely mirror those of new immigrants, are more likely to compete directly for jobs with new immigrants.

“Americans are right to worry about the declining quality of jobs over the last few decades, but this report shows that, for native workers at all levels of education, immigration had very little to do with it,” said EPI economist Heidi Shierholz, author of the report.

“Other factors, like employers’ aggressive anti-union tactics, the declining purchasing power of the minimum wage, and unbalanced foreign trade are the real culprits behind broad-based declines in wages and job quality.”

Nevertheless, said Shierholz, immigration could have a much more beneficial impact on the U.S. economy — and its impact on foreign-born workers already here could be mitigated — if the immigration system were given a comprehensive overhaul. “This report suggests that we have little to fear, and much to gain, from developing a fairer, more rational immigration system,” she said.

The report’s methodology is consistent with other economic literature on immigration, which assumes no long-term impact on wages from immigration. Although immigrants increase the labor supply, they also help grow the overall economy by working and spending their earnings on goods and services. ♦

For more information, visit www.epi.org.

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