More Fuzzy Math From the Center for Immigration Studies

This week, the Center for Immigration Studies — the “think tank” of the anti-immigrant movement — released yet another document meant to feed the opposition to immigration reform, this one alleging that “all employment growth since 2000 went to immigrants.”

CIS’s report has been promoted across conservative media and by fellow anti-immigrant activists like Phyllis Schlafly.

But, just like the group’s recent report alleging that the Obama administration had released tens of thousands of criminal undocumented immigrants, this one doesn’t hold up to the smallest amount of scrutiny.

Conservative Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby devoted his column yesterday to puncturing CIS’s “stolen job myth”:

To begin with, the number of native-born Americans working in 2014 has not declined since 2000. It has increased by 2.6 million. The authors of the report acknowledge as much in an endnote. It is only by excluding the record-high cohort of workers 65 and older, one of the fastest-growing age groups in the labor market, that Camarota and Ziegler can claim that immigrants are taking all the available new jobs. But it is just as plausible to blame the long-term stagnation in the employment of “working-age” American natives on older employees as on those born in other lands. Should senior citizens who wish to work be forced to retire at 65?

In the zero-sum world of the anti-immigrant advocates, foreign-born workers can only gain at the expense of the native-born. But in the real world, immigration generally enlarges the economy, boosts productivity, and adds jobs. Immigrants amount to less than 13 percent of the US population. Yet 28 percent of all new American companies launched in 2011, as Rupert Murdoch wrote in a Wall Street Journal essay last month, were founded by immigrants.

Broadly speaking, immigrant workers and US-born workers are not substitutes but complements; because they tend to have different skills, they generally don’t compete for the same jobs. Immigrants are more likely to be employed at the high or low ends of the labor market, explains Alex Nowrasteh of the Cato Institute, while most Americans have skills in the middle. Supplying the immigrant skills needed by the economy simultaneously enlarges demand for native skills.

Restrictionists hint at some kind of inverse correlation between gains in employment for US-born and foreign-born workers, but they can’t show what doesn’t exist. Look past their tendentious presentation of the data, as Nowrasteh wrote about an earlier Center for Immigration Studies report, and you notice that for the most part “net gains in employment for natives and immigrants move in the same direction.” When natives gain, immigrants gain, and vice versa. We all work in the same labor market.

The fundamental flaws in the CIS report are similar to those in the infamous and widely panned Heritage Foundation study that produced a wildly inflated figure for the “cost” of immigration reform based on the assumption that immigrants wouldn’t be productive or expand the economy. (An assumption that itself was likely linked to one of its author’s racist views on intelligence).

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