- The Washington Times - Friday, August 11, 2006

Immigrants have no clear effect on the employment prospects of native-born Americans, said a study that looked at patterns for 15 years.

“There is no consistent relationship between the growth in the foreign-born population and employment outcomes for native-born workers,” said Rakesh Kochhar, associate director for research at the Pew Hispanic Center, who wrote the report. “As a result, it is not possible to state with certainty whether the inflow of foreign-born workers has hurt or helped the employment outlook for native-born workers.”

But a study by the Center for Immigration Studies, which has yet to be released, argues that immigrants harm younger workers at the lower end of educational achievement.

The reports surface as Congress debates whether to enact a guest-worker program to allow more immigration and to give legal status to some of the estimated 12 million to 20 million illegal aliens in the country.

The Pew study used census figures and looked at both workers with less than a high school degree and workers ages 25 to 44 with a high school degree but no further education. The study covered the years 1990 to 2000 and 2000 to 2004 in an effort to capture the contrasting job markets.

Mr. Kochhar identified eight states where the immigrant population grew most quickly between 1990 and 2000 and where native-born workers had below-average employment rates in 2000 — meaning the immigrants may have harmed native-born workers’ ability to find jobs. But he also found 16 states with above-average immigrant population growth and above-average employment — meaning the immigrants may have benefited natives.

Between 2000 and 2004, the District of Columbia and 27 states showed a positive correlation between immigration and jobs, while the remaining 23 states had a negative correlation.

The study did not consider immigrants’ effects on wages.

Those who favor restrictions say the current wave of immigrants — which by total numbers is the largest ever — puts pressure on the job market and holds down wages.

Steven A. Camarota, research director for the Center for Immigration Studies, said the Pew study did not look specifically at the native population most likely to be hurt by competition from immigrants.

“The big declines in work are among natives who have less than a high school degree or only a high school degree and are young, and he’s not really looking at that population,” Mr. Camarota said.

He said a 35-year-old native is not likely to be competing with a 35-year-old immigrant, but a 20-year-old native is competing with the immigrant.

The unreleased CIS report found that between 2000 and 2005, 4.1 million immigrants arrived in the work force, accounting for 86 percent of the growth in employment — the highest recorded share in U.S. history. At the same time, the number of employed native-born men ages 16 to 35 dropped by 1.7 million.

Of the new immigrant workers, between 1.4 million and 2.7 million are illegal aliens, which means they account for up to 56 percent of the net increase in civilian employment during the past five years, the CIS report says.

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