Saturday, July 17, 2010

The fallacy of linking unemployment to immigration

Are immigrants a significant cause of unemployment? Would their deportation open up jobs for native Americans?

David Frum writes:
… here’s a crucial fact that Brookings omits: that 125,000 per month increase in the US labor force is not a law of nature. In fact, during the Bush years, more than half the growth in the US labor force was due to the arrival of immigrant labor.

Immigrants now make up some 15% of the US labor force. They are concentrated in the less skilled portion of the labor force and in industries hardest hit, especially construction.

If immigration levels were curtailed, the job gap would be a lot smaller. And if illegal immigrants returned home, rather than being put on a “path to citizenship,” the problem of putting the unemployed back to work would be smaller and easier.
Karl Smith responds to Frum’s “lump of labor fallacy”:
The US population and thus the number of job seekers has fairly grown remarkably over the last 200 years. Why is it that unemployment hasn’t grown steadily as well?

Because every worker is also a consumer. When you send a immigrant worker packing you are sending his consumption packing with him. For those who have trouble with the abstract interwovenness of the economy think about it this way: Is the one thing our economy really needs right now fewer residents and thus less demand for housing?

If anything we have a construction industry which is predicated on a large and growing population. Perhaps faster growing than we can maintain, but in any case, slowing down growth is not likely to improve matters.
Immigrants – documented or undocumented – create jobs. First, by willing to work for low pay and at often menial tasks (e.g. gardeners, domestic servants, etc.) jobs are created where done existed before due to higher priced domestic labor. Second, as Smith points out above, every worker is a consumer. U.S. dollars paid to an immigrant as wages does not suddenly disappear. It gets poured back into the U.S. economy as payment for rent, the purchase of food, the purchase of a car, etc. thus creating (or maintaining) jobs for others elsewhere in our complex economy.

And lets not forget how immigrant farm labor makes our food purchases affordable thus stretching our spendable cash for nonfood purchases creating jobs elsewhere in the labor market.

Whatever other considerations there are to take into consideration regarding the issue of immigration, forcing immigrant workers/consumers to return to their native lands is not a positive step to take in regards to its impact on our struggling economy. In fact, it would be hurtful.

1 comment:

Wotan said...

I think too often debaters mix up the terms illegal immigrants with legal immigrants.
I have read from several sources that illegals are currently employed in jobs that would normally be taken by eight million blacks, so tolerating illegal aliens here has greatly harmed the black community. I will send you links, if you want, I have to look it up....Also, produce in the supermarkets is NOT cheap...low wage labor does not result in cheap foods down the pipeline, we are being ripped off. Even if fruit pickers, etc. were paid just $1.50 an hour, the consumer would still get shafted.