Immigrants and Jobs

The more, the merrier


Last July, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) warned that amnesty for undocumented immigrants "would prevent many Americans from getting jobs." But according to a June study from the National Bureau of Economic Research, immigration doesn't take jobs away from natives; it pushes them into better ones.

The study, conducted by Francesco D'Amuri of the Italian Central Bank and Giovanni Peri of the University of California at Davis, looked at migration patterns in Western European countries between 1996 and 2007. The economists found that immigration does not increase unemployment. Instead, it gives "simple" jobs to immigrants and pushes natives into more "complex" jobs. The positive effect on the native population is even greater in countries with less restrictive labor laws, while countries with greater worker "protection" are less able to adjust to the influx of migrant labor.

This influx, D'Amuri and Peri argue, raises the returns on advanced skills, increasing the incentives to acquire them. As a result, the number of natives employed in abstract or communication-intensive jobs—for which natives have the edge in language and cultural understanding—rises.