Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Studies: Immigrants work productively, not steal

The LA Times reports the results of studies of the effects of immigrants on American society.
Two new studies by California researchers counter negative perceptions that immigrants increase crime and job competition, showing that they are incarcerated at far lower rates than native-born citizens and actually help boost their wages.

A study released Tuesday by the Public Policy Institute of California found that immigrants who arrived in the state between 1990 and 2004 increased wages for native workers by an average 4%.

UC Davis economist Giovanni Peri, who conducted the study, said the benefits were shared by all native-born workers, from high school dropouts to college graduates, because immigrants generally perform complementary rather than competitive work.

As immigrants filled lower-skilled jobs, they pushed natives up the economic ladder into employment that required more English or know-how of the U.S. system, he said.

"The big message is that there is no big loss from immigration," Peri said. "There are gains, and these are enjoyed by a much bigger share of the population than is commonly believed."
This conclusion rather surprised me, but then I realized it shouldn't. The results simply document the long-made claim that the immigrants are taking jobs Americans won't take. But it also shows that having those jobs filled allows non-immigrants to take higher pay and more productive jobs.
Another study released Monday by the Washington-based Immigration Policy Center showed that immigrant men ages 18 to 39 had an incarceration rate five times lower than native-born citizens in every ethnic group examined. Among men of Mexican descent, for instance, 0.7% of those foreign-born were incarcerated compared to 5.9% of native-born, according to the study, co-written by UC Irvine sociologist Ruben G. Rumbaut.
This one is not quite so intuitive to me. But I would guess that the dynamic is that any worker who is willing to do what it takes to get to the U.S. to work, legally or illegally, is coming here because he or she wants to work. They could have stayed home and stolen, but they didn't. They really just want a more fair return for their effort and skills.

The next quote tells you where the statistics came from.
Both studies are based on U.S. census data, which includes both legal and illegal immigrants. They were released just days before the U.S. Congress is to restart debate on major immigration reform legislation and as numerous states, including Texas, consider harsh measures against illegal migrants.

The authors say their work shows that immigrants clearly benefit U.S. residents and are being unfairly scapegoated for problems they do not cause.
That conclusion which I highlighted above is the key. Immigrants benefit U.S. residents.

The article goes on to get some opposing responses from right-wingers, but the responses are really quite weak.

[H/T to Kevin Drum who, since he lives in Orange County, CA gets to read the LA Times.]

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