New Report: Less-skilled immigrants fill important roles in US economy

Migrant workers by Shutterstock.com

President Obama said this morning that the time for Congress to fix the “byzantine” immigration system is now, saying that if “you’re serious about fixing the system, this bill is the vehicle to do it, and now is the time to get it done.”

With the Senate set to consider bi-partisan immigration reform later this week, one of the most contentious issues is the proposed new W Visa for less-skilled temporary workers.

Does the U.S. need more less-skilled immigrants? Do they take jobs from U.S. workers? Or are they filling jobs for which there are few willing and able Americans?

A new study from American Enterprise Institute (AEI) scholar Madeline Zavodny and ImmigrationWorks uses the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey and the Department of Labor’s Occupational Information Network, or O*NET, to examine similarities and differences in the jobs held by low-skilled immigrants and low-skilled Americans.

Among the important findings: low-skilled immigrants, many of them unauthorized, meet a vital need for employers in a broad spectrum of essential industries. Immigrants rarely compete with Americans. They bring different skills and strengths. Jobs filled by low-skilled Americans require better communications skills; those filled by low-skilled immigrants are more physically demanding. And jobs held by low-skilled immigrants support and create jobs for Americans, freeing them to move up to slots that require more communications skills and managerial ability.

Click here to read the full report "Filling the gap: Less-skilled workers in a changing US economy"

As the U.S. economy becomes more technology-intensive, there is less demand for low-skilled workers. But there will always be some need, and there are increasingly few Americans available to meet it. Educational attainment, comparative advantage, physical stamina and geographic mobility position low-skilled immigrant workers to fill this critical gap. Surely it’s only common sense to create a way for them to enter the U.S. legally.

Madeline Zavodny is available for interview and on background. To arrange an interview, please contact a media services representative or email [email protected] (202.862.5829).

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