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‘Politically explosive’ study suggests immigrants taking jobs from Americans

By Muriel Kane
Friday, October 29, 2010 20:15 EDT
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A new Pew study is being widely touted as demonstrating that as the nation struggles to recover economically, immigrants are gaining jobs at the expense of native-born workers. According to the Immigration Policy Center (IPC), however, the Pew report “omits important details” and creates a false impression.

“In the year since the official end of recession in the United States, immigrants have seen job growth but native-born workers have continued to lose jobs,” the Christian Science Monitor reported on Friday. “That’s the politically explosive conclusion of an analysis released Friday by the Pew Hispanic Center, a nonpartisan research group funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts.”

“In the year following the official end of the Great Recession in June 2009, foreign-born workers posted a net gain of 656,000 jobs, while native-born workers lost 1.2 million,” the story explains. “The foreign-born category includes legal and illegal immigrants. As a result of immigrants’ recent job gains, the unemployment rate for immigrant workers fell during this period from 9.3 percent to 8.7 percent, while for native-born workers it rose from 9.2 percent to 9.7 percent.”

“Are immigrants (including many in the country illegally) reducing employment opportunities for native-born Americans?” the Monitor asks. “And are immigrants pushing down wage levels?”

The IPC acknowledges these statistics but rejects the study’s interpretation, noting, “Some observers will undoubtedly conclude from this that the jobs which went to foreign-born workers would have otherwise gone to native-born workers if not for the presence of immigrants in the labor market. However, this is not the case. In reality, immigrant and native-born workers are not interchangeable, nor do they compete with each other for some fixed number of jobs in the U.S. economy. Moreover, many immigrants are highly skilled professionals who create jobs through their inventiveness and entrepreneurship.”

The IPC also points out that “62.5% of foreign-born workers lived in six states as of 2009: California, New York, Florida, Texas, New Jersey, and Illinois” and concludes that those workers are unlikely to be the cause of elevated unemployment rates in the rest of the nation. And it concludes by emphasizing that “most foreign-born workers complement, rather than compete with, most native-born workers.”

The more sensationalistic interpretation of Pew’s statistics, however, appear likely to gain traction. The Wall Street Journal, for example, began its own story with a quote from the “head of an immigrant employment center near Washington, D.C” who told them, “The recovery is working for our community. It’s unbelievable how many jobs are becoming available.”

“Immigrant presence in the U.S. labor force has been increasing for several decades,” the Journal asserts, “with foreign-born workers now representing 16% of the U.S. labor force, up from 10% in 1995. … Immigrants also tend to be more flexible about their wage expectations and more mobile than native-born workers.”

According to another survey issued this week by the Pew Hispanic Center, 61% of Hispanics now say that discrimination is a major problem for them, compared with 54% three years ago, and a plurality blames this increase on the backlash against illegal immigration.
“The poll also found that 70 percent of foreign-born Latinos think they are being held back by discrimination,” the Washington Post adds, “and half of all Latinos think the United States has become less welcoming toward immigrants than it was just five years ago. … More than half of all Latinos told Pew pollsters they are worried that family members, close friends or they themselves could be deported.”

Muriel Kane
Muriel Kane
Muriel Kane is an associate editor at Raw Story. She joined Raw Story as a researcher in 2005, with a particular focus on the Jack Abramoff affair and other Bush administration scandals. She worked extensively with former investigative news managing editor Larisa Alexandrovna, with whom she has co-written numerous articles in addition to her own work. Prior to her association with Raw Story, she spent many years as an independent researcher and writer with a particular focus on history, literature, and contemporary social and political attitudes. Follow her on Twitter at @Muriel_Kane
 
 
 
 
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