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Article - Illegal Immigration
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The Impact of New Immigrants on Young Native-Born Workers, 2000-2005

By Andrew Sum, Paul Harrington, and Ishwar Khatiwada

Over the 2000-2005 period, immigration levels remained very high and roughly half of new immigrant workers were illegal. This report finds that the arrival of new immigrants (legal and illegal) in a state results in a decline in employment among young native-born workers in that state. Our findings indicate that young native-born workers are being displaced in the labor market by the arrival of new immigrants.

* Between 2000 and 2005, 4.1 million immigrant workers arrived from abroad, accounting for 86 percent of the net increase in the total number of employed persons (16 and older), the highest share ever recorded in the United States.
* Of the 4.1 million new immigrant workers, between 1.4 and 2.7 million are estimated to be illegal immigrants. This means that illegal immigrants accounted for up to 56 percent of the net increase in civilian employment in the United States over the past five years.
* Between 2000 and 2005, the number of young (16 to 34) native-born men who were employed declined by 1.7 million; at the same time, the number of new male immigrant workers increased by 1.9 million.
* Multivariate statistical analyses show that the probability of teens and young adults (20-24) being employed was negatively affected by the number of new immigrant workers (legal and illegal) in their state.
* The negative impacts tended to be larger for younger workers, for in-school youth compared to out-of-school youth, and for native-born black and Hispanic males compared to their white counterparts.
* It appears that employers are substituting new immigrant workers for young native-born workers. The estimated sizes of these displacement effects were frequently quite large.
* The increased hiring of new immigrant workers also has been accompanied by important changes in the structure of labor markets and employer-employee relationships. Fewer new workers, especially private-sector wage and salary workers, are ending up on the formal payrolls of employers, where they would be covered by unemployment insurance, health insurance, and worker protections.

During the last five years, new immigrants have accounted for an overwhelming share of the growth in the number of employed persons in the United States. Native-born adults and established immigrants have been unable to capture much of the new employment opportunities that have been created in the nation since 2000. The number of employed persons in the civilian working-age (16 and over) population rose by 4.835 million between 2000 and 2005. During 2005, a total of 4.134 million new immigrants were working in the United States. New immigrants who entered the United States since 2000 and were still residing here during 2005 accounted for 86 percent of the total increase in employment in the nation over the 2000 to 2005 period. Native-born and established immigrants accounted for less than one-sixth of the total rise in civilian employment that occurred in the nation over the past five years. These findings differ by gender. Among men, new immigrants accounted for all of the rise in employment, as the total number of employed men in the nation increased by only 2.665 million while the number of employed new immigrant males was 2.767 million during 2005. For the first time since the end of World War II, there has been no gain in employment among native-born men over a five-year period.

A substantial share of employed new immigrants appear to be illegal workers, often employed in off-payroll jobs that are increasingly concentrated in a newly emerging informal sector of the American labor market. The Pew Hispanic Center estimates that there were 4.4 million illegal immigrants residing in the United States in 2005 who had entered the country since 2000.1 We estimate that 2.857 million of these new illegal immigrants were actively participating in the labor force during 2005 and that about 5.5 percent of the immigrant labor force was unemployed.2 With a labor force of 2.857 million and an estimated unemployment rate of 5.5 percent, we conclude that the number of new illegal immigrants who were working in the United States during 2005 was 2.7 million. This means that about two-thirds of all employed recent immigrants in the United States were working illegally during 2005 and that more than one-half (56 percent) of the total rise in employment that occurred in the nation between 2000 and 2005 was attributable to the growth in employment among illegal immigrant workers.

The extraordinarily high share of new employment captured by new immigrants was accompanied by a powerful shift in the organization of the nation’s labor markets. In a subsequent section of this report we will provide evidence that some employers have begun to re-organize work in ways that systematically exclude certain native-born workers, especially those under the age of 35, from employment and that create work that does not meet the basic labor standards that have been developed over the years by federal and state legislation, custom and tradition, and through labor-management/collective bargaining agreements.

The ability of the nation’s teen and young adult (20-24) population to become employed has deteriorated badly over the past five years. Employment levels for all those aged 16 to 34 have fallen by more than 1.5 million between 2000 and 2005, even as the total number of employed persons increased by more than 4.8 million over the same period of time. Several alternate explanations might help explain this employment decline among young people in the nation. Part of the explanation could simply be associated with demographic change. Reductions in the size of the teen and young adult age cohorts can result in employment declines even though the likelihood of a member of that cohort finding work doesn’t change. Alternately, changes in the likelihood of becoming employed can reduce the number of young people working. The first explanation has no validity since the number of native-born people aged 16 to 34 rose as the echo generation (baby boomers’ children born between 1978 and 1996) moved into this age group in large numbers.


To read the entire report from the Center for Immigration Studies, Click Here.

1 Jeffrey S. Passel, The Size and Characteristics of the Unauthorized Migrant Population in the U.S.: Estimates Based on the March 2005 Current Population Survey, Pew Hispanic Center, Washington DC, March 2006.

2 Our estimates of the size of the immigrant labor force are based on applying population shares by age/sex group and labor force participation rates for key age/sex groups in the new immigrant population to Pew estimates of the number of illegal immigrants for each of these age/sex groups.

2006-09-21 06:14:34