August 10, 2006

Growth in the Foreign-Born Workforce and Employment of the Native Born

I. Overview

Rapid increases in the foreign-born population at the state level are not associated with negative effects on the employment of native-born workers, according to a study by the Pew Hispanic Center that examines data during the boom years of the 1990s and the downturn and recovery since 2000.

An analysis of the relationship between growth in the foreign-born population and the employment outcomes of native-born workers revealed wide variations across the 50 states and the District of Columbia. No consistent pattern emerges to show that native-born workers suffered or benefited from increased numbers of foreign-born workers.

In 2000, nearly 25% of native-born workers lived in states where rapid growth in the foreign-born population between 1990 and 2000 was associated with favorable outcomes for the native born. Meanwhile, only 15% of native-born workers resided in states where rapid growth in the foreign-born population was associated with negative outcomes for the native born. The remaining 60% of native-born workers lived in states where the growth in the foreign-born population was below average, but those native workers did not consistently experience favorable employment outcomes. The same results emerged from the analysis of data for 2000 to 2004.

When ranked by the growth in the foreign-born population between 1990 and 2000, the top 10 states showed significant variation in employment outcomes for native-born workers in 2000. Native workers in five states had employment outcomes that were better than average and native workers in the other five states had employment outcomes that were worse than average. The pattern also held for the 2000 to 2004 time period.

The size of the foreign-born workforce is also unrelated to the employment prospects for native-born workers. The relative youth and low levels of education among foreign workers also appear to have no bearing on the employment outcomes of native-born workers of similar schooling and age.

The study uses Census Bureau data at the state level to examine the growth of the foreign-born population and the employment outcomes for the native born during two time periods, 1990 to 2000 and 2000 to 2004. The question it addresses is whether above-average growth in the foreign-born population was associated with worse-than-average employment outcomes for the native-born population.

The analysis maps the growth of the foreign-born population in a state over a given time period against three measures for native-born workers—employment rate, labor force participation rate and unemployment rate—at the end of the time period. That establishes the relationship between the pace of immigration and outcomes for the native born. The analysis also explores the relationship between the share of foreign-born workers in the workforce of a given area and the employment rate for native-born workers. That establishes the relationship between the size of the foreign-born presence in a state’s workforce and a key outcome for the native born.

Among the major findings:

Cite this publication: Rakesh Kochhar. “Growth in the Foreign-Born Workforce and Employment of the Native Born.” Pew Research Center, Washington, D.C. (August 10, 2006) http://www.pewhispanic.org/2006/08/10/growth-in-the-foreign-born-workforce-and-employment-of-the-native-born/, accessed on July 23, 2014.