Do immigrants take jobs from Americans and lower their wages by working for less?
The answer, according to a report published on Wednesday by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, is no, immigrants do not take American jobs — but with some caveats.
The question is at the heart of the furious debate over immigration that has divided the country and polarized the presidential race. Many American workers, struggling to recover from the recession, have said they feel squeezed out by immigrants.
Donald J. Trump, the Republican nominee, has called for a crackdown on illegal immigrants, saying they “compete directly against vulnerable American workers.” He promises to cut back legal immigration with new controls he says would “boost wages and ensure open jobs are offered to American workers first.”
Hillary Clinton, his Democratic rival, takes an upbeat view, saying immigrants contribute to the economy whether they are here legally or not, by providing labor for American employers and opening businesses that create jobs for Americans rather than taking them.
The report assembles research from 14 leading economists, demographers and other scholars, including some, like Marta Tienda of Princeton, who write favorably about the impacts of immigration and others who are skeptical of its benefits, like George J. Borjas, a Harvard economist. Here’s what the report says:
• “We found little to no negative effects on overall wages and employment of native-born workers in the longer term,” said Francine D. Blau, an economics professor at Cornell University who led the group that produced the 550-page report.
• Some immigrants who arrived in earlier generations, but were still in the same low-wage labor markets as foreigners just coming to the country, earned less and had more trouble finding jobs because of the competition with newer arrivals.
• Teenagers who did not finish high school also saw their hours of work reduced by immigrants, although not their ability to find jobs. Professor Blau said economists had found many reasons that young people who drop out of high school struggle to find work. “There is no indication immigration is the major factor,” she said.
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SOURCE: NY Times, Julia Preston