The Case for More Low-Skill Immigration

Chart shows what the future will hold — check the demographics of various age groups in the USA

Whatever one thinks of the legality or propriety of the President Obama’s move to end the threat of deportation for roughly five million illegal immigrants, the correct policy would be to allow more low-skilled workers to either enter legally or remain in the country.

The fact is that low-skilled immigrants, like their high-skilled counterparts, aren’t the only ones to benefit by moving to America. We all benefit.

The issue of low-skilled immigration naturally provokes intense nativist sentiments. According to the Pew Research Center, roughly 47 percent of illegal immigrants haven’t completed high school. And household earnings for illegal immigrants are considerably lower than that of native-born and legal immigrants. So it makes some sense that native-born Americans worry that an influx of cheaper unskilled labor will depress overall wages and take away jobs from native-born workers.

However, lower-wage immigrants are not a competitive threat to most Americans given that only 12 percent of the native-born population doesn’t have at least a high school diploma. Moreover, uneducated Americans have a competitive advantage because of their fluency in English. As a result, lower-skilled natives tend to specialize in higher-paying jobs that require the ability to communicate in English while the immigrants concentrate in lower-paying manual labor jobs.

Economists have shown that low-skilled immigrants typically do the “non-language jobs” that the average American simply doesn’t want (e.g., manual farm labor, roofing, and lawn care). As economist Benjamin Powell explains, “free trade in labor, like goods and services, allows people to do what is in their comparative advantage. Immigrants free up natives to take more valuable positions”…

That implies a steady inflow is required as the second generation won’t do those jobs either. Net effect: population replacement: already well underway.