August 10, 2006

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

VIII. Conclusions

The analysis shows that the employment prospects for native-born workers do not appear to be related to the growth of the foreign-born population. The assessment, based on Census data for 1990 and 2000 and 2000 to 2004, did not produce a distinct outcome for the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Instead, those areas fell into one of two contrasting groups. In the first, the growth in the foreign-born population was negatively correlated with employment prospects for native-born workers. In the second, the growth of the foreign-born population was positively correlated with employment prospects for native-born workers.

These results emerged for both the 1990 to 2000 time period, a decade marked by a record economic expansion, and the 2000 to 2004 period, which was marked by a recession and slow recovery. Employment outcomes for native-born workers were assessed using three indicators—the employment rate, the labor force participation rate, and the unemployment rate. Regardless of the indicator used, when the employment outcome of the native-born population was measured against the percent change of the foreign-born population in each state, no constant pattern emerged. When ranked by employment rate, for example, there were significant differences in the growth of the foreign-born population among the top 15 states.

The relationship between the inflow of foreign-born workers and employment outcomes for native-born workers was also tested using other indicators. However, the same conclusion emerges when the share of foreign-born workers in a state’s workforce is correlated with employment outcomes of native-born workers. The size of the foreign-born workforce in a state appears to have no relationship to the employment prospects for native-born workers.

The analysis also focused on two particular segments of the workforce that are entry points for a majority of foreign-born workers: workers with a high school education or less and workers ages 25 to 44. Despite the relative concentration of foreign-born workers in these segments, it appears to have had no discernible impact on the employment of less-educated and relatively young native-born workers.