Native-born workers living in American cities with a large population of Mexican immigrants may actually fair better during economic downturns than those living in areas with comparatively few Mexican immigrants, a new study finds.
During the Great Recession, low-skilled Mexican immigrants were more likely than both high- and low-skilled native-born workers to respond to high levels of unemployment by moving in search of better job opportunities, according to a National Bureau of Economics Research working paper by economists at the University of Colorado and Carnegie Mellon University. That left more jobs available for the U.S.-born workers, who are more likely to stay in the area.
The result is that regions that started out with a lot of Mexican immigrants before the recession were better protected from the shock to the labor market that typically results from a downturn, the study found. On the other hand, cities with a low percentage of Mexican immigrants before the recession ended up with the same number of workers competing for fewer job openings during a downturn.
“Natives living in cities with many similarly skilled Mexicans were thus insulated from local shocks,” write the paper’s authors.
The findings counter arguments from immigration reform opponents who claim that a large immigrant population is all bad for low-skilled native-born workers because it increases competition for jobs. There’s other evidence that indicates more immigrants would be a boon to U.S.-born workers; a January study from the Hamilton Project, a unit of the non-partisan Brookings Institute, found that native workers see their wages rise by between 0.1 and 0.6 percent on average with a boost in immigrants.
(Hat tip: The Wall Street Journal)