Immigration Is Good For The Economyby Doug Mataconis
Contrary to the argument made by most immigration opponents, it seems that immigration actually raises wages for workers as a whole:
Immigration has a positive impact on the U.S. economy and boosts wages for the vast majority of native workers, though there are “small negative effects” on the earnings of the least-skilled Americans, according to a report the White House issued yesterday.
The report, a review of economic research prepared by the president’s Council of Economic Advisers, concludes that foreign-born workers have accounted for about half of labor force growth in the past decade, fueling overall economic output, creating jobs and increasing earnings for native-born workers by as much as $80 billion a year.
Immigrants and their children also have a “modest positive influence” on government spending, the report says, contributing about $80,000 more per person in tax dollars over the long run than they claim in government benefits and services.
The report directly challenges attacks on President Bush‘s proposal to overhaul immigration laws. His measure would link beefed-up border security and a crackdown on employers who hire illegal immigrants to provisions granting legal status to the 12 million illegal immigrants already in the country. It would also create a guest-worker program sought by business and shift the emphasis of immigration policy from family ties to job skills and education.
Foreign-born workers make up 15 percent of the U.S. labor force, with large concentrations at the top and bottom of the education scale, the report says. For example, immigrants make up 36 percent of workers who lack a high-school diploma and 41 percent of scientists with doctoral degrees.
As a group, immigrants earn 77 cents on the dollar compared with native workers, though that gap largely disappears among college graduates.
More than 90 percent of native workers benefit from the influx of low-wage labor because immigrants take jobs that complement higher-paid native workers rather than competing with them, according to the report. For example, [Council of Economic Advisers Chairman Edwin P.] Lazear said, immigrant roofers lower costs for contractors and home-builders, creating jobs for plumbers and electricians and lowering the price of houses for consumers.
That’s the side of the immigration debate that the nativists don’t want you to think about. Kick out all that cheap foreign labor and the cost of everything from your new house to the lettuce at the grocery store goes up. Not to mention the revenue lost to businesses who benefit from the wages that immigrants earn.
But this shouldn’t be surprising. It’s the same thing that happened in the late 1800’s when Eastern Europeans started coming in large numbers. People complained they were taking away jobs from “real Americans” and, you know, they dressed weird and spoke in those funny foreign languages. And it’s the same thing that happened when the Irish arrived here, and the Italians. The only difference this time is that the immigrants are closer and they don’t need to get on a ship to get here.
And, oh yeah, they dress weird and speak a funny language.