No, Illegal Immigrants Don't Take Your Job

Editors' pick: Originally published Nov. 16.

How does illegal immigration affect American jobs?

This was one of the central issues of the 2016 presidential campaign, and many quarters treat it as a settled question. The assumption is that in taking jobs and doing them for less, illegal immigrants push down wages and employment for legal citizens.

This common wisdom is wrong.

In a report published recently by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine researchers found "little evidence" that immigration has any effect on native-born employment, except to the degree that it "reduces the number of hours worked by native teens."

On wages, the NASEM found:

"When measured over a period of ten years or more, the impact of immigration on the wages of native-born workers overall is very small… Some evidence on inflow of skilled immigrants suggests that there may be positive wage effects for some subgroups of native-born workers, and other benefits to the economy more broadly." 

Yes, this report form the National Academies may be the most recent of its kind, but it is also consistent with previous research on the subject. Many other credible studies have found similar results. For example, a report published in the Southern Economic Journal not only found little negative impact on employment, but that laws preventing their employment (such as E-Verify) can actually raise the cost of doing business and slightly depress hiring.

In fact, to an increasingly unanimous degree, economists agree that, far from hurting native-born workers, illegal immigration actually helps the economy to a considerable degree.

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