Increasing the Supply of Labor
Panel Discussion Transcript
May 4, 2004
National Press Club
Steven Camarota, Director of Research, Center for Immigration
George Borjas, Robert W. Shriver Professor of Economics and
Social Policy, The John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard
Jared Bernstein, The Economic Policy Institute
Robert Lerman, Senior Fellow, Labor and Social Policy, The Urban
CAMAROTA: I’m Steven Camarota, director of research at the
Center for Immigration Studies. The reason we’ve gathered you all here
today is to discuss a new report that the Center is putting out,
published by Harvard economist George Borjas.
The report is an important piece of research because it examines what I
think we’d all agree is one of the central issues in the immigration
debate – how does it affect American workers; how much, if at all; and
how does it do that?
When I came in to work today and I drove by the AFL-CIO’s headquarters
on 16th Street I saw a large sign that said, “America needs good jobs.”
It seems to me that one of the central attributes of a good job is how
much it pays. And this report is so important because it addresses
probably one of the most central features of jobs: in addition to having
one, what kind of pay does it offer you?
Now, Dr. Borjas, for those who are familiar with the immigration debate,
needs no introduction, but let me try anyway. He is the Robert W.
Shriver Professor of Economics and Social Policy at the John F. Kennedy
School of Government at Harvard University. He is also a research
associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research.
Dr. Borjas received his Ph.D. at Columbia University in Economics in
1975, and as I said, he has written, of course, extensively on the labor
market impact of immigration. And he’s the author of several books on
the topic, including most recently, “Heaven’s Door: Immigration Policy
and the American Economy.” In fact, Dr. Borjas has been described by
both The Wall Street Journal and Business Week Magazine
as, quote, “the nation’s leading immigration economist.” In addition to
all that, he still finds time also to serve on the board of directors of
the Center for Immigration Studies.
Now, joining him to discuss his paper, to my far left, is Jared
Bernstein of the Economic Policy Institute here in Washington. Dr.
Bernstein joined the Economic Policy Institute in 1992. His areas of
research include income and wage equality, technology’s impact on wages
and employment, and more generally, the low-wage labor market and
poverty. Between 1995 and 1996, he held the post of deputy chief
economist at the U.S. Department of Labor, and he has published
extensively in popular and economic journals on the U.S. labor market.
Dr. Bernstein holds a Ph.D. in economics from Columbia University.
Joining us to our right is Robert Lerman. Dr. Lerman is a senior fellow
in labor and social policy at the Urban Institute here in Washington.
Prior to becoming a senior fellow, he was director of the institute’s
Labor and Social Policy Center from 1995 to 2003. He holds a doctorate
in economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and is the
author of more than 100 articles, monographs, reports, and conference
papers. He has served on a variety of panels and commissions, including
the National Academy of Science, and the board of the National
With that, I’d like to turn it over to Dr. Borjas.
GEORGE BORJAS: Thank you very much,
Steve. I want to stand up and do a little presentation on the overhead.
The research I’m talking about today is basically addressing a very
simple question, which is: Do immigrants alter the employment
opportunities of native workers?
The answer to that, given by economic theorists is actually very simple.
What I did when I began this research a couple of years ago was to go
back to Paul Samuelson’s textbook of economics, and back to the 1964
edition for a particular reason, and a view which I’ll mention in a
minute. If you read what Samuelson said back in 1964 he basically said,
after World War I, laws were passed that limited immigration. Only a
trickle of immigrants were admitted since then—speaking in 1964—and by
keeping labor supply down, immigration policy tends to keep wages high.
Now, the interesting thing about the date is this was one year before
the enactment of the 1965 amendment to the Immigration Nationality Act,
the one policy that sparked the resurgence of large-scale immigration to
the U.S. So he’s basically talking about the mirror image of where we
are today. Economic theory predicts that when immigration policy is
restrictive, it keeps wages up. It also predicts a mirror image of that,
which is when labor supply goes up, like we’ve had in the last 30 years,
the wages should go down.
So the prediction of the theory is actually very simple. Remarkably,
it’s been incredibly difficult to find that empirically. And part of the
reason has been the way that these things have been done in the past.
Let me start with a well-known fact that most of you will be aware of,
which is that immigrants in the U.S. tend to cluster in a very small
number of areas. As you can see from the data that I have here, almost
40 percent of immigrants live in four cities. That clustering, that very
extensive geographic clustering, has motivated many, many economists to
try to estimate the labor market’s impact on immigration by comparing
natives and – across different cities basically. It is that approach
that has led to the current conventional wisdom that immigrants seem to
have little impact on the employment of the communities of native
In that approach, what is being done basically is that -- the physical
study will say, well, if it’s really true, as Samuelson sort of implied,
that when immigration goes up, wages go down, we should have been able
to compare native wages, say in San Diego, a city with many immigrants,
with a city like Pittsburgh, which is a city with relatively few
immigrants, and holding everything else constant, it should be evident
that wages for native workers in San Diego are lower than wages for
native workers in Pittsburgh. And this is basically the approach that’s
being used in much of the literature, to see if indeed the prediction of
the theory is correct.
When people have done that, and many people have done that, the result
has been pretty striking. And to sort of show you the net result, I
quote here the 1997 National Academy of Sciences study that basically
looked at that whole literature and concluded that overall it seems as
if, if you compare wages in different cities—heavy immigrant cities with
light immigration cities—you don’t tend to find much of an impact. The
problem with that conclusion, which I point out in the report, is there
are several problems, actually but there are two key problems. One is
that immigrants do not tend to be randomly thrown into cities. They will
tend to take particular cities and avoid other cities.
So, for example, suppose that immigrants chose to immigrate to cities
that have high wages, that have thriving economies. Well, that will tend
to build in a positive correlation that might outweigh whatever negative
impact there might have been. So that’s one potential problem. Equally
important is the possibility that when immigrants go into a city,
natives respond. And how would natives respond to that? Well, just think
about it. Suppose that immigrants going to San Diego – (unintelligible)
– all the wages. Well, then the natives in San Diego will say, gee, I
might as well go to Pittsburgh. And then immigration flows out of San
Diego to Pittsburgh, and thereby will tend to equilibrate the labor
market across the national economy. So you would tend to find very
little difference between San Diego and Pittsburgh when you look at
these two cities
The point of all this is that there has been a slow recognition by
economists that perhaps the city is not geographic unit one should be
looking at to measure the labor market impact of immigration. Because
there are all these equilibrating flows, one might want to go to a
higher level, like the national level. And that is precisely what I have
done in this study.
I basically moved the analysis to try to look at what is the impact of
immigration on the national wage structure? And the reason that is
important is because by switching to the national level and by realizing
the fact that immigration is not—that immigrants don’t have the same age
distribution as natives—you can actually make a lot of headway in trying
to estimate the labor market impact of immigration.
To give you an idea: suppose that immigrants in any given year tend to
be quite young. Suppose that today we’re receiving a lot of young high
school dropouts in the country. Well, that implies that it will be young
high school dropout natives who will be most affected, not all the high
school dropout natives. And using that, and by looking at these trends
at the national level, then you can actually see very clearly what the
impact of immigration is on the wage structure.
So let me show you some of the data [that] underline this approach. The
data I’ve used, by the way, just to make everything clear, are data from
the 1960 through 2000 census. So we’re looking at 40 years of Census
data. These data contain millions of workers, so we actually have
working characteristics from millions of native workers over the last 40
years, and that is the underlying data that I will be reporting the
And to show you how the immigration has changed the labor market for
some workers, look at what happened to the labor market for high school
dropouts over the last 40 years. Here I have years of experience,
basically age: how long have you been in the labor market? And on the
vertical [graph] I have the immigrant share—the percent of the workforce
in that year in that experience group that is foreign born. [Editor's
Note: Please refer to the Report for tables.]
What this basically indicates, for example, right here, is in 2000
roughly 50 percent of all workers who were between—with 10 to 20 years
of experience, roughly 25 to 35 years old—half of those workers were
foreign born. In other words, immigration increased the supply of young
high school dropouts substantially in 2000. If you look in previous
years you can basically see the pattern, but in some years immigration
didn’t have that big of an impact on the younger workforce. They had
more of an impact on the older work force. So, depending on the year,
and depending on education level obviously—this is for high school
dropouts—it actually does matter; it’s important to determine which
particular group of native-born high school dropouts is most affected.
And the same thing is true at the other extreme of the education
distribution, which is college graduates. You can sort of see here that
in 2000 if you were a younger college graduate you would have been in
the labor market where 15 percent of the workforce is foreign born. In
other words, immigrants came in and increased substantially the number
of workers in that particular skill group. In other years, it would have
been the older college graduates who would have been most affected by
That means that if you look at data from 1960 through 2000, you can then
disentangle the effect of what happened to the wages of particular
workers, as in some years it is a particular group of, say, highly
educated workers affected. In others years, another group, you might be
able to see something about what the impact of immigration is at the
national level. That’s exactly what this report does.
And just to summarize the conclusions, this is basically one of the key
numbers in the report. By looking at the actual earnings of workers over
the last 40 years and trying to see what happens to the earnings of a
particular age group or a particular type of education—workers at a
given point in time—you can basically discover that immigration
increased the workforce by 10 percent. And by that I mean the following:
suppose there are a million workers who are, say, young and are high
school graduates. And suppose that increased by 10 percent so that there
would be 100,000 more people— 100,000 immigrants, in other words. If
immigration increased the number of workers in that skill group by 10
percent, the weekly earnings of that group will go down by almost 4
Now, that is not a small impact; it’s not a huge impact either. It’s
sort of a normal impact consistent with what economists have long
suspected about the response of wages to supply. So it’s really not out
of the ordinary in terms of what economists have long known about the
structure of demand for labor in the U.S. economy. Every 10 percent
increase in the number of workers in a skill group will tend to lower
wages by between 3 and 4 percent. And that’s sort of the net result that
I want you to remember from this study. It’s sort of a stylized fact.
That is an important statistic for those of us who care about labor
market impacts of supply shocks.
Now, that 3 or 4 percent change is what happens to their own skill
group. In other words, what happens to high school graduates when more
high school graduates come in? The fact of the matter is that when
immigrants come in they also affect other skill groups. So, for example,
you’re going to have a huge influx of high school dropouts. Well, that
will affect the wage of other people in the economy—of college
graduates, for example. And what the report shows is that these cross
effects tend to be very, very, very small. In other words, they’re
nothing like on the order of the 3 or 4 percent decline that I’ve shown
you earlier. So is entirely true that when young high school dropouts
come into the labor market, college graduates came, but they gained very
little: only half of one percent.
So, if you want to get a complete picture of what these numbers mean for
the wage effect of immigration, what I did in the report was actually to
simulate a particular supply shock. And what I simulated was: what
happened to the labor market as a result of the fact that over the last
20 years, roughly speaking, immigrants came in? So what I did was to
say, what happened as a result of the 1980-2000 immigrant influx?
Now, let me describe that in a little more detail. Start the world up in
1980. In 1980, the U.S.—everybody in the U.S. at that point in time is a
native. So that’s the beginning world. What happened is a result of the
fact that over the next 20 years we’ve admitted X million of immigrants?
You take the statistics I showed you earlier and this is basically what
happens. For the typical native man in the labor market, the typical
person present in the U.S. back in 1980, the wages went down by 3.7
percent, even if they’re accounting for all these cross effects. But if
you look by education group, you can basically see that some groups lost
a lot more and some groups lost a lot less.
Why is that? Because immigration, as many of you might know, tends to be
very bimodal in a sense. Immigration, to a large extent, is either
composed of a lot of low-skill workers or of high-skill workers. There
are very few immigrants sort of in the middle of the distribution. Ok?
As a result of that, at the very bottom end of the distribution, you
find that immigrants lower the wage of high school dropouts, and by that
I mean the immigrants who came in in the last 20 years, 82,000, lowered
the wage of high school dropouts by 7 percent. They lowered the wages of
college graduates by almost 4 percent. But for high school graduates and
for workers with some college, there was a very small impact, only about
2 percent. And again, that reflects the fact that a lot of immigrants
tend to be highly concentrated either in the low-skill or in the
high-skill group, not really in the middle of the distribution.
Now, an important thing that one can do with these statistics is to look
at the impact of immigrants on different groups of native workers. This
3.7 percent, this number I just showed you, is for all native workers in
the U.S. as of 1980. But it turns out if you look by race you see very
striking differences. And the reason is that because immigrants tend to
be disproportionately low-skill; it is low-skill natives who lose the
most. And it’s when you look at by race that you tend to see groups that
have a lot of low-skill workers being affected the most adversely by
So, for example, if you look at the data, you will find that for the
typical white, native worker in the U.S., that immigrant influx, the ’80
through 2000 influx, only lowered the wage by 3.5 percentage points. For
Asians it was even lower, only by 3 percentage points. But for blacks
and Hispanics, you see the impact being much greater. Why is that?
Because black and Hispanic natives tend to have disproportionately
larger numbers of low-skill workers, who are the workers competing
directly with the low-skill immigrants who were admitted to the U.S. in
the ’80 through 2000 period.
Now, let me conclude by doing something a little counterfactual in terms
of the Bush proposal that was proposed about three months ago. As you
will recall, President Bush proposed to legalize, or provide some
mechanism for legalizing illegal immigrants in the U.S. already, and
also providing some kind of guest worker program for people now abroad
who want to enter the U.S.
Now, if you believe the results that I’ve just proposed before you, you
would have to conclude that any kind of expansion of visas in that
fashion would have a really substantial impact on the labor market. And
by that I mean if one were to enact, as written, the proposal that we
are now going to admit a lot of foreign workers as guest workers into
the U.S.—now, in the proposal itself the numbers aren’t specified, but
if it’s a large number, given this 3-4 percentage wage drop for every 10
percent increase in supply—we could be talking about a really radical
rearrangement of labor market opportunities for native workers in the
In any case, what I did, just to show you the impact of illegal
immigration, is the following: We don’t know how many, who, in the
Census data that I’m using in the report, we don’t know who are the
illegal immigrants. So what I just did was the following: Let’s suppose
there had been no Mexican immigration over the last 20 years—in other
words between 1980 and 2000. What would you have seen as a result of
that? Now, clearly many of these Mexican immigrants that I’m taking out
of the data, of the analysis right now, are legal immigrants. And in
fact, about half are. If you look at the data of how many Mexican
immigrants are in the U.S., it turns out roughly there were 9 million or
so of them in 2000. And we know from INS predictions, or projections,
that about half of those tend to be illegal immigrants.
So I’m just saying, let’s just suppose there had been no Mexican
immigration of any type. What would we have seen? We would have seen
that for college graduates, the impact would have been exactly the same:
3.6 percent. In other words, since so few Mexican immigrants are college
graduates, we would not have seen any kind of shift on the impact on
college graduates. But for high school dropouts, basically Mexican
immigration explains for us the whole impact. Since Mexican immigration
is about half illegal, about half of the impact that we see is actually
due to legal immigration. So that will be one statistic to remember:
roughly speaking, illegal immigration of Mexican immigrants in the last
for 20 years or so accounted for about 3.5 percent drop in the wages of
high school dropouts.
Now, whether the president’s proposal is enacted or not, this impact is
already here. The illegal aliens—the illegal immigrants are already
admitted. Therefore, their labor market impact is said and done with.
The real concern over the Bush proposal will be what would happen in the
future if in fact this guest worker program goes into effect as
proposed, because as I said before, if it goes into effect as proposed,
what that basically does is to open up many, many more jobs in the
United States to competition from abroad. And that could have a really
substantial labor market impact.
Now, let me conclude by basically re-stating a couple of things and
making a couple of points. What I showed in this report is really going
back to the Samuelson quote at the beginning. Pure common sense tells
you that if you have more workers competing in the labor market, market
conditions will be soft and the wages will go down. What I’ve done is
basically put a number to that, a number that happens to be in line with
what economists have long suspected about the response of wage to
supply. For every 10 percent increase in supply—in total supply of a
skill group, wages tend to go down by 3 or 4 percent.
Now, that does not mean that immigration is a net loss for the U.S.
economy, because that wage loss doesn’t disappear into the thin air? It
goes someplace. And where does it go? It goes to employers. And
employers are able to save that wage loss that goes to workers, and
therefore they have higher profits, and in the long run some of those
higher profits will trickle down to consumers in the form of lower
So, both employers and, in the long run, consumers, will gain. So one
way to interpret what immigration really does is really as a
redistribution program. Immigration is basically a redistribution
program that at least in the short run redistributes wealth from workers
to employers. It’s as simple as that, which is why, when you look at the
debate over immigration policy, employers will always say something
along the following lines: We have a shortage; we need more workers.
Why? Because more workers implies lower wages and higher profits.
Now, the question that remains is whether that kind of transfer is
acceptable or not. And that’s really what’s the immigration debate—one
of the key questions of the immigration debate.
MR. CAMAROTA: Thank you.
Now Jared Bernstein.
JARED BERNSTEIN: It was a
pleasure—I’m going to sit down for the most part. I may use some slides;
I may not. That was a pleasure to listen to George talk so clearly about
his work. So I’ve been asked to speak for about 10 minutes about
George’s paper, and it’s a pleasure to be here with George. As
introduced, he’s a premier authority in this area and obviously
knowledgeable and uncharacteristically able to explain this stuff. It’s
nice to listen to him.
Now, I don’t think anyone—in tandem with the Samuelson quote—I don’t
think anyone should find it a reach to entertain the possibility that,
all else equal, immigration could lead to lower wages for those workers
with whom immigrants compete. I think the notion is certainly
commonsensical. The questions are: is all else equal, and what’s the
magnitude of the effect, if there is one, and what, if anything, should
we do about it? George posed some answers to those questions and I’m
going to pose some different ones.
First of all, if nothing but immigration-induced supply shocks were
going on, there would be little to argue about because you would be
moving down demand curves as supply curves moved out. One of George’s
slides showed that. And that would lower wages. I’m particularly
sympathetic to that contention because I’ve been very active in the
minimum wage debate. And in this debate, economists have really puzzled
over why is it that when we raise the minimum wage it’s pretty difficult
to find any evidence of significant job losses? And one of the reasons,
many economists have concluded, is that demand curves for low-age
workers are quite inelastic, meaning they’re pretty steep. So when you
push out the supply in the case of immigration, you know, you can
actually generate some pretty big wage losses, again holding all else
equal. But it’s often tricky to figure out how these models, like
George’s, are handling trends in labor demand. So, so far I’ve tried to
make the point that the supply trends are clear, but demand trends are
just as important as supply, of course, and they tend to be more
Now, labor economists have been very focused on the impact of demand
shifts, and what concerns some of us about the type of findings George
just presented is that it’s difficult to separate the impact of demand
shifts that hurt low-wage workers regardless of their nativity—whether
they’re immigrants or natives—from the impact of immigration. And to the
extent that those immigration variables in George’s models are
correlated with these demand shifts, it’s really difficult to pull one
out from the other. And that’s one of the, I think, broadly made
critiques of this literature.
My work has emphasized the very dramatic impact of the positive demand
shifts in the latter ‘90s, in which—and by the latter ‘90s I’m really
thinking ’95 to 2000— where the demand for low-wage workers increased
more than it had in decades and appeared to swamp any immigration
effect. Over this period we saw immigration increasing quite quickly the
supply of low-skill workers. We also saw welfare reform—and Bob Lerman’s
an expert on that—we also saw welfare reform contributing to a large
increase in the supply of low-wage workers, yet the low-wage market
never did better. And so, appreciating the impact of demand shifts and
trying to understand their role here is important, and I think somewhat
overlooked in this literature.
And so now let’s talk about magnitude. So my first point is that all
else is unequal. My second point is: what’s the magnitude?
Now, most of the literature, as George suggested—and knows better than
anyone here—most of the literature finds smaller effects than George’s.
And these effects—it’s important to remember that these effects tend to
be negative and they tend to be significant for the least skilled.
They’re not nearly as significant for the more highly skilled workers as
they are in George’s study, but they tend to be significant and negative
for low-wage workers. However, they tend to be considerably smaller. And
so now we have a magnitude discussion which is going to keep people like
George and David Carr and others busy for the rest of their lives, and
God bless them, but we need to try to sort out who’s right.
Now, as George pointed out, many of the studies that find the smaller
effects tap spatial variation, and George and others critique this. I’m
just much less convinced than he is—and I say that at great risk because
he knows more about this than me—but I am a great peruser of the
literature if not a creator, and I really am not convinced that these
studies are as wrong as I think George [thinks they are]. He makes two
contentions. One is that since there is mobility of native workers, that
that can dampen the effect of the supply effect—that can dampen the
supply effect. But in fact, that’s an empirically testable statement and
numerous economists—there’s, I think, a good paper by Card and DiNardo
and some others—have looked at the extent to which native displacements
actually occur. I mean, do natives move from San Diego to Pittsburgh
when immigrants locate there? And they don’t find it.
Just as one example, there’s a recent study by a couple of Fed
economists, Araneus (ph) and Zavodny, and I think they used a nice
technique—actually it’s a variation on something that Steve Camarota
once presented at the Economic Policy Institute, to examine the impact
of wages by occupation. So they actually look at the occupations that
immigrants tend to congregate in and they try—and I think in an
imitative way, using some very unique INS data—to control for where
immigrants actually locate, so to really try to take account of the
critique that George raised.
And just to give you an example from the literature that’s more in
keeping with these smaller findings, “We find wage impacts that vary
from half a percent to about, you know, less than 1 percent, with
negative wage impacts that amount to about less than 1 percent for a
10-percent increase in the corresponding immigrant share. We find no
evidence of adverse wage impacts on meeting the high-skilled native
workers; in fact, increases in newly arriving immigrant shares of work
within professional jobs actually have slightly positive wage effects,”
et cetera, et cetera. So I’m just trying to present to you that there is
another strain of this literature that finds smaller magnitudes than
I think it’s interesting to think about why you find a larger effect—why
you find a lack of a larger effect, because I agree with Samuelson and
with George’s intuitions that you’d expect to find a larger one. Well,
first of all, they do find a negative effect, especially among the less
skilled. But I think that the real story is that at different points in
time the demand effects—the effects of the demand for workers regardless
of nativity can swamp the supply effects.
And finally, there’s an interesting paper by Lewis that looks at how
immigrants do get absorbed in the way they do. In other words, if
they’re not having these large wage effects they must be absorbed into
the economy somehow in a way that precludes that from happening. And he
writes—it sounds somewhat cryptic—“Markets adapt production technology
to local factor supplies,” which is sort of Greenspan-speak for
industries actually find new ways to employ these low-skilled workers
and they boost their production of low-wage goods in that regard.
Let me just conclude with a discussion of policy implications. And
George, more than anyone—and I think this is a real attribute to his
view on this—is very clear that none of what he shows, or others show,
real obvious policy conclusions. Obviously it’s a complicated issue.
Many of us value ethnic diversity and many economists believe it’s
inefficient to restrict the flow of factors of production across
borders, including labor. I mean, unions—you mentioned the AFL sign;
that’s an interesting comment. Unions used to be dead-set against higher
levels of immigration due to labor competition and now they want to
organize immigrants. So the politics are all over the map. There are
conservatives who are xenophobic and employers who believe, as George
says, that they should have access to all the cheap labor they need.
Advocates on the left support high levels of immigration in solidarity
with ethnic minority populations and are in some denial about this
negative coefficient that we’ve been talking about thus far.
Despite the negative correlation between immigration and wages, I don’t
see an obvious problem with the current level of immigration, though I
think one area where CIS has made a great contribution is in pointing
out what looks like a pretty dysfunctional Immigration Service. So just
enforcing current law would be a goal.
I’m particularly concerned about the plight of illegals who are heavily
exploited in the labor market. My initial reaction to the Bush plan—I
share George’s concern about labor supply—but my initial reaction was a
positive one in the sense that, as he mentioned, these workers are
already in the system and are heavily exploited. Bringing them under the
protection of labor law seemed to me to be a good idea, at least in that
one piece of the plan.
But just because I don’t think there are very large wage effects, as
large as we’ve seen thus far, that doesn’t mean that they’re not out
there and that they couldn’t become of much greater magnitude if the
supply shocks increase. For example, if there were an amnesty program, I
have heard folks from CIS argue convincingly that that sends a message
to immigrants who are considering coming here to do so.
Let me just—I have one minute—let me actually go for maybe one minute
extra and then I swear I’ll get out of the way.
One issue that I have with this work on immigration and the impact of
immigration is that it may not be the low-skilled native men who are the
most affected. It may be that the foreign born who have been here for a
while are facing competition from newly arrived immigrants. That’s where
there is the most head-to-head competition, I’d wage—I’d be interested
in George’s comments on that—and that the persons who are actually
competing most intensely with new immigrants are old immigrants.
Let me close with a word about trade and outsourcing. Many of the same
economists who find wage effects from immigration fail to look for
similar effects from economic developments in trade policy which create
greater competition with lower-wage workers in other countries. This,
too, creates greater labor supply. In fact, the wage effects on
less-skilled workers, which you would attribute to our persistent trade
imbalance—when we have year-after-year, decade-after-decade imbalances
in manufactured goods trade—that’s the same thing as a supply shock. And
the research shows that those wage effects are consistently larger than
those from immigration. And now, with the outsourcing problem getting
started, our skilled workers are facing competition from countries with
seemingly endless supplies of skilled labor.
So, at any rate, you know, in this picture I think one can see
immigration as another form of globalization. Now, let me just point
out, since 2000, if you look at the employment rates of high school
dropouts, that’s the share of high school dropouts who are employed,
it’s a good proxy for labor demand. Between 2000 and 2003: unchanged.
They haven’t changed one bit. They haven’t fallen; they haven’t gone up.
The employment rates of college grads, on the other hand, have fallen 2
percentage points—are at their lowest level in 25 years. So there does
appear to be—that’s not just off-shoring by any means—in fact, I would
say off-shoring plays a very small part in that. But there are supply
shocks that go beyond immigration and that are embodied in trade flows
ROBERT LERMAN: Thanks very much.
It’s nice to be here and it’s always a pleasure to read papers by
George. The one that you read is a very easy read, but then I was
supposed to read the more complicated one in the QJE and that is much
more extensive but very engaging and worth reading.
George amasses a rich array of data to examine these issues, and he
begins with the basic—I mean one of the things that when I teach, I
teach at American U—one of the things I try to remind my elementary
students is that if you’re at a cocktail party and somebody asks you
about economics issues, you just say, well, it’s a matter of supply and
demand. And that’s . . . you know, no economist can move away from the
basics of supply and demand and the notion of competition, which is
embedded in the analysis. But there is another basic notion that you
also learn in economics, which is the fact that inputs are really
resources, that it expands the capability; that is, more resources to
produce, more factors of production to produce expand our capability to
produce, and therefore, all you really need then is to increase demand
sufficiently so that all of this added potential gets realized in added
Now, what does this mean about immigration? Well, one way of thinking
about the problem is first to step back and ask, well, suppose that what
we had instead of what we actually experienced—which was, as George
mentions, a bimodal inflow—suppose instead we had a proportional inflow
of workers as well as other factors of production—they brought with them
some savings and we had a proportional inflow of all factors of
production. Well, what would that mean? Well, that should mean that we
just have a bigger pie, a bigger possibility of what we can produce. It
shouldn’t necessarily affect the pattern of factor returns, and
therefore the issue would end up turning on things like, is it better to
operate at this higher scale; are there economies of scale, or are their
diseconomies of scale? The economies of scale might be that people are
sharing more, let’s say, in the cost of public goods, like the armed
services. The diseconomies of scale might be that certain things get
And then you have other issues, like cultural diversity and
heterogeneity of people, but overall you might expect those things not
to be quite as significant. Now, of course, we did not have, as I
mentioned before, a proportional increase in the factors of production,
and we had indeed what George has alluded to, these various subgroups
So let me first say a couple of things about George’s paper
specifically, and then I’m going to talk a little bit about growth
issues and where we go in the future.
Well, what struck me about George’s paper was that he—it’s a kind of a
static analysis in the sense that there’s no embedded economic growth in
the analysis. One of the things you might expect is that maybe in the
short run there’s some change; for example—just to give you one example,
suppose there is an increase in the number of immigrants with low
education, and that has an initial drop in the wage of unskilled
workers; that should set off an incentive that should raise the rate of
return for those workers to invest in skill and shift the share of those
workers and move of them into higher-educated positions. Just one
example. Another example is the role of capital flows. When we see this
increase, what happens to the inflow of capital, and are firms more
willing to invest in the presence of the growth in the workforce?
Now, these are very complicated matters, and I don’t pretend to be able
to solve all of them for you, especially in my remaining four minutes.
But there are papers that look at sort of the growth aspect, look at
immigration in the context of an economic growth model. And what they
tend to show is that you do get an initial change, especially in the
group—let’s say if you have an increase in even, say, skilled worker
immigrants, there is an initial drop in their wages. But then, because
skilled workers work together with capital, that increases the
likelihood of capital inflows, capital investment, which again
increases, as Jared would say, the demand. The increased in skilled
immigration raises a return of capital, so capital owners benefit. Some
of the capital owners are the skilled workers themselves. And,
therefore, it’s not obvious that, in this case, even skilled workers
might benefit from the rise in inflow of skilled workers.
Certainly, in this model that I’m referring to, a paper by Michael
Bengad called “Capital-Skill Complimentarities and the Immigration
Surplus,” he finds that certainly less-skilled immigrants would benefit
from inflow of skilled workers, and even skilled workers end up
So this is one of the things that I would try to focus on, and George
has focused on this in the past, which is the composition. Maybe it’s
not so much the level but maybe it’s the composition, and maybe we ought
to be paying more attention to avoiding this situation, which I agree is
a very bad situation, where the crowding occurs almost entirely in the
very low-educated groups.
One point though, and Jared talked about the ‘90s; I’ll just make one
very quick point about the ‘90s. Since 1992 until today, we’ve had a
kind of interesting demographic shift. Now, this doesn’t take into
account all the experience components that George Borjas mentioned, but
we’ve had an interesting demographic shift, the result of which has been
the absolute level—the absolute level of high school dropouts, adult
high school dropouts, 25 and older, has declined quite substantially. In
fact, there was a decline between ’91 and 2001 as the growth in the U.S.
labor—over-25 labor force of 16 million people, but there was an
absolute decline of 5 million in high school graduate or less category.
And you might ask, well how is that possible? Aren’t we churning out
more high school dropouts, and aren’t high school dropouts immigrating?
And the answer is, yes, but it’s also the case that older—the difference
in the educational structure between older workers and younger
workers—is so great that as older workers retire you get a big drop off
in the numbers of high, in the absolute numbers of high school drop
outs. So that may be one reason why in the 1990s we were able to absorb
the high school dropouts more effectively.
Two more points; one point which I forgot to mention, which is about
George’s paper. It’s sort of small technical point but it may drive some
of the results. I noticed in the broader paper, where you have the wage
trends, that there is essentially almost no real wage growth in 40
years. And this is hard to believe. And it might possibly be because of
two factors: one, the price index that George uses may overstate the
growth in prices, and the second is the non-wage compensation has
increased quite substantially and that’s not taken into account.
Okay, where do we go for the future? Where do we go to for the future?
Well, one of the things that we have not talked about is how immigration
is interacting with the broader demographic changes in the society. If
you look at what we were doing in the 1970s and the 1980s, we had labor
force growth of 2 percent per year, partly because of internal
demographic factors, partly because of immigration, and partly because
of a big inflow of women into the workforce, which has largely peaked.
Over the next 20-30 years, we’re going to have a much, much smaller—in
fact, half of the rate of growth in the labor force, only about 1
percent per year. This, again, includes immigrants. And in some groups,
such as prime-age workers—workers 25 to 54—we have virtually no absolute
growth in the workforce.
Now, you might say, well, this is good; it’s going to increase the wages
for that group, and that’s probably true. But again, it gives us a very
unbalanced pattern, and I think that when we think about immigration we
have to think about it in the context of what else is going on in the
labor force. We have to think about it in terms of compositional factors
and we have to think about it in terms of economic growth.
One way to perhaps compensate—and in fact we have a program, the H1B
program there is a $1,000 fee for employers bringing in an H1B person.
That fee goes into training programs and those training programs
actually are among our more flexible training programs that the Labor
Department sponsors. If we moved more in that direction I think we could
have a win-win situation.
MR. CAMAROTA: Well, thank you to all
of the panelists. I’d like to open it up for questions, but also like to
exercise the chair’s prerogative and ask the first one.
Immigrants on average are poorer than natives, so that when immigrants
come in —on the other hand, a large share of immigrants are workers, so
when immigrants come in the economy is certainly larger—you’ve got more
people working, and per capita income, or per capita GDP, is certainly
lower when you count the immigrants because they’re poorer on average,
so the economy is bigger and the average person in America is poorer.
But neither of those two facts tell us where there’s some net gain from
immigration to natives. And I wonder if any of the panelists, but
especially Dr. Borjas, could talk to the question of what does the
research show? I know there was a recent NBR paper on this—that’s the
National Bureau of Economic Research, the National Academy of Science.
What do we think; is there a big net gain from immigration, at least to
the economy? There might be other net gains and losses.
MR. BORJAS: First we need to define
what we mean by gains. It’s pretty clear that when more workers come in
from abroad, say, GDP grows. Part of that growth in GDP actually goes to
pay immigrants themselves. In other words, you have to pay them to work
and to produce whatever they produce. So, the way that economists have
tended to define the gains happens to be as what remains of this
increasing GDP as the result of more workers after you pay off the
immigrants their wage and salary. In other words, how much is left over
for everybody else after you pay them for the fact that they have to
work for a living? And what the research tends to show, and summarized
in the National Academy report, is that that net gain, the part of the
GDP increase that accrues to natives, is clearly positive. There’s no
doubt about it. There’s a net gain for the U.S. economy. But it happens
to be very small.
Now, remarkably enough, in economic theory it actually happens to be the
case, the size of the net gain depends on the number I was talking about
before. In other words, what happens to the wage as the supply goes up?
And the estimates that one gave with the 3-4 percentage point declining
wage that I’ve documented here are, roughly speaking, that the gain is
on the order of perhaps around 21 percent of GDP, okay? So it’s
one-tenth of 1 percent of GDP. GDP in the U.S. today is roughly $10
(trillion), $11 trillion, so we’re talking about a net gain of maybe $10
(billion), $11 billion dollars, roughly speaking, okay?
So there’s clearly gain. It’s not a huge number but it is, nevertheless,
an important number. And one important thing too about that gain is that
it’s really masking two separate effects on the capital gain. One is the
wage loss from workers, which can be substantial, and the other is the
net gain to capitalists and employers and consumers, which could be
substantial. So these flows could be very big, but on net, it’s about
$10 (billion) $11 billion net gain, basically.
MR. CAMAROTA: So let me see if I
understand, though, that what you’re saying is that sometimes people
say, look, immigration doesn’t have any effect on wages but it creates a
big net gain for natives. You’re saying that is not possible based on
MR. BORJAS: I’m not saying—no,
that’s not what I’m saying. What I’m saying is, based on what people—on
the evidence that we have so far—nobody has ever documented a really big
gain. Their documentation has been on the order of .1 percent of GDP.
That’s what I’m saying.
MR. LERMAN: I’d like to comment
MR. CAMAROTA: Sure.
MR. LERMAN: The issue of . . . yes,
it’s true that we have to pay the immigrants, and that’s a big part of
the production that they generate, but there is a big gain for those
immigrants. Those immigrants have a huge increase in wages.
Now, that is perhaps one reason why I believe that if you look at the
political support—and George was talking about this earlier, so I’m
going to comment on it, the issue of employers and so on—a lot of the
political support for the immigration comes from prior immigrants who
may be able to bring family members in, and in any event, even if they
aren’t bringing family members in, they have a certain sympathy for
groups that want to do what they did, which is to move from a very
low-wage place to a substantially higher wage place, for them.
And I think it’s important, when we discuss these issues, when we’re
talking about—and I certainly agree with George that it has
distributional issues, it is a factor in affecting the earnings and
equality increases, but there are people who feel that they’re going to
benefit a lot, and their supporters in this country are among the big
backers of immigration, even if to some extent some of them may
indirectly be competing with them.
MR. CAMAROTA: Let me just comment
very briefly. Actually, I guess I would disagree just as little bit in
that what one finds in the surveys is that immigrants are not nearly as
enthusiastic about immigration, further immigration, because they
generally fear the job competition. But people who claim to speak for
immigrants—that is, the Hispanic elite in the United States and the
immigrant elite—is much more in unanimity on the need for more
immigration. The immigrants themselves are much more circumspect about
it, and we see that in poll responses to the ideas of amnesty or
increases. It’s a more complex picture than that.
But anyway, let me open up the . . .
MR. BORJAS: I want to say one more
thing about the gains, okay, and that is the following: One can think of
the world as being composed of three populations: the U.S.
population—let’s suppose that everybody here today is the U.S.
population—the immigrants we’re going to accept, and everybody else left
behind. We haven’t talked about that group at all. By natives we mean
“us,” more or less, and some of us will gain; some of us will lose.
Immigrants completely agree: they’re going to gain substantially. A
minimum wage job in the U.S., as bad as it might be to most of us, is
far, far better than the opportunities for many people elsewhere.
But what about the people left behind: that’s a group that we tend to
forget about, who also suffer or gain as a result of immigration to the
U.S.? For example, let’s consider immigration policy, like the H-1B
program, in which we suddenly decide to import every single high-skill
worker in India. Okay? Like every single engineer in India we’re going
to import. Engineers in the U.S. wouldn’t like that but the U.S. as a
whole might like that a lot. We’d be able to buy a lot more software,
build a lot more bridges, and whatever, at much lower prices. But what
about the Indians left behind? Is it really beneficial for India for a
country like the U.S. to have so much pull and so earnings power, in a
sense, that it can pull completely the skilled workforce from many other
countries? And that gain also should be brought into account in any
discussion of the gains from immigration. Yes, immigrants themselves
benefit a lot, but people left behind may benefit or may lose
substantially, and that’s a group we shouldn’t forget about.
MR. CAMAROTA: The best statistic I
ever heard on that topic was once that half of Ethiopia’s doctors now
live in America, and that’s a society desperately in need of doctors.
And so that’s an interesting question to also think about.
Anyway, let me open it up to general questions. Who’d like to ask a
question? Go ahead, and if you could identify yourself.
Q: Ralph Smith, the Congressional
Budget Office. I’d like to get your response to a couple of things that
Bob said, that in your analysis it’s not taking into account sort of
dynamic feedback. I think you provide a good criticism of the problem
with the cross-section, but there do seem to be some – (inaudible).
MR. CAMAROTA: Let me just repeat the
question. The question had to do with the dynamic feedbacks in the
economy that Dr. Lerman talked about.
MR. BORJAS: What I did was
basically—I’m talking about the technical paper that came out in the QJE
last November, okay? What I did was basically look at data from 1960,
‘70, ’80, ’90 through 2000 Census. So really what I’m doing is really
differencing data at a decade level. In other words, I’m looking at the
change in economic opportunities for native workers between ’60 and ’70,
or ’70 and ’80, ’80 and ’90. Anything that occurs within that decade are
more or less accounted, but I would think a decade is more or less in
the short run in some sense. The analysis does not take into account
anything that might happen after the decade perspective. So it may well
be the case that after 10, 15, 20, 30 years, all kinds of things begin
to happen that may show up in the data.
The best way to interpret my results is really to say, this is what
happens within a 10-year period with increased supply of a particular
skill group. That’s the wage change you will see within that 10-year
MR. CAMAROTA: Go ahead. Identify
Q: Yes, my name is (inaudible),
member of the House of Representatives in the Dutch parliament. That’s
quite interesting input from the panelists. First of all, I was quite
struck by your one-to-one relation wage on the one hand and an increase
of immigration on the other hand. But as we know, the results of wages
are also influenced by, let’s say, international economics and
governments, the role of the trade union, as know in the Netherlands,
being strong. So I don’t get a clear picture of the one-to-one relation,
and say if we increase the supply so the wages will go down.
A second remark is that what we have, for example, nowadays in Europe,
and especially in the Netherlands, is that going down with the wages is
not so bad in that sense because our economic position is not so well
nowadays, so that we keep the wages at the minimum to improve our
economic competition, one half, and the other half is it’s also in the
benefit of the immigrants themselves because it improves their
integration, because to get jobs, to work, is one of the prime things to
integrate with society. (Inaudible.)
MR. CAMAROTA: The question again
was, what are the other factors that have impacts on wages and also the
integration of immigrants into the economy?
MR. BORJAS: The technical
analysis—again referring to the version of the paper that’s much more
technical, at the decade level—in other words within a ’60 to ’70
period, or ’70 to ’80, or something like that, actually takes into
account almost everything one can think of, in some sense, that could
happen to a particular group over a decade. In other words, what I’m
trying to do is more or less follow, holding other things equal for a
particular group. So for example, I am looking at what the relation is
between the wage change between, say, 1980 and 1990 for high school
dropouts, after controlling for all of the things that could have
affected high school dropouts between 1980 and 1990.
So in the technical analysis, I do make a point—in the technical jargon
we use, we call them fixed effects. I control for the fixed effects that
could have affected the wage of particular skill groups in that decade,
okay? So that’s clearly done.
In terms of integration and so on, it’s actually a very curious question
because most European countries are very concerned with integration
policy. In the U.S., it’s quite remarkable that we have something called
immigration policy, but more or less, immigration policy ends the day
that people get into the U.S. We have no such thing as an integration
policy, roughly—at least at the federal level. And so we basically have
these people coming to the marketplace; there’s very little government
programmatic assistance of any type, any systematic type, that would
help any of these workers integrate because immigration policy ended the
day they got the visa, more or less. And what I’m doing more or less is
just catching what happens in the labor market as the result of
So, unlike most European countries—and actually Australia and New
Zealand, or Canada—we really don’t have a persistent follow-up of
immigrants once they get into the U.S. The only other time that
immigrants, once they get into the U.S. legally, ever get into the
system is when they want to get naturalized, at which point they have to
pass a very, very simple test. But that’s about the only extent to which
we have any kind of policy of integration for immigrants.
MR. CAMAROTA: Go ahead.
Q: Ricardo Alonzo-Zaldivar with the
LA Times, and I have questions for two of the panelists. For Mr. Borjas,
today the Democrats are going to roll out their immigration plan, and
basically it’s a legalization plan for those who are already here,
coupled with a restrictive guest worker program that’s capped as opposed
to open-ended. Can we get your thoughts on that, on the effects of that?
And for Mr. Lerman, could you tell us what share of the labor force—I
was interested in what you said about the share of the labor force
that’s high school dropouts and how that has changed over whatever
period you have . . . give us the numbers.
MR. CAMAROTA: The two questions, one
was a question for Dr. Borjas about the Democratic plan; the Democratic
Party is releasing a plan today to legalize illegal aliens and also
institute a guest worker program with some kind of cap. And then there
was another question for Dr. Lerman about the declining share of the
workforce represented by high school dropouts.
MR. BORJAS: Okay, let me start. I
have not read the Democratic plan so I’m basically talking from what I
read in the paper last night, okay, about what they want to propose. If,
in fact, they proposed to legalize illegal immigrants already in the
U.S. without doing anything about solving the illegal immigration
problem, I think that has the same basic flaw as the Bush proposal,
which is that we’re trying to address a problem without really
addressing the underlying issue, which is the entry of illegal
By legalizing the 10 million or so illegal immigrants already here, that
plan, nor does the Bush plan, do anything about preventing the problem
from being revisited 10 years from now. In other words, we might have to
revisit the issue 10 years from now and give a third amnesty to 10
million more people.
I think that it would be a great mistake for the U.S. in general to
address the problem of what to do with illegal immigrants already here
until we prevent the problem from being addressed ever again. In other
words, let’s actually control the border, prevent the illegal population
from increasing, and then we can say, let’s worry about what to do with
people already here. Any other thing we do would just create more
incentives for another amnesty five years, 10 years, down the line.
That’s number one.
In terms of what it would do in the labor market, as I said in my talk,
illegal aliens are already here; they already had the labor market
impact they’re going to have. So the 10 million already here already had
To extent that these programs of repeated amnesties sort of make a
mockery, really, of our legal immigration policy, that just creates more
incentives for more illegal immigrants to come in, having a larger labor
market impact in the end. So I would not be in favor of any program,
whether Democratic or Republican, to legalize current illegal immigrants
until the legal immigration problem is actually addressed at its root
MR. LERMAN: I don’t have in my head
the exact proportions, but I know that it’s fallen quite substantially,
especially in the last 10 to 15 years, especially among the adult 25 and
I’m just looking at some other data here. Again, this is on the 25 and
over population. The less-than-high-school group went from 17 million
out of 80 million in—I don’t have a calculator in my head, but that’s
something on the order of 20 percent, I think—in 1980. In the year 2000,
it was 12 million—this is adults 25 and over in the labor force—went to
12 million out of 120 million, so there is a big drop.
Q: Can you repeat those years again?
MR. LERMAN: 1980 to 2000. But one of
the things I mentioned, I mentioned there was this big absolute decline
in high school dropouts, adult high school dropouts in the workforce.
Part of that decline is, as I mentioned, because of this difference in
education between the people retiring and the people coming into the
workforce. That is not going to continue to happen. That is not going to
continue, and it will make controlling the border with respect to
low-skill workers all the more important, because in the future, as the
educational structure, the people retiring over the next 20 years, is
going to be much closer to the educational structure of the new
entrants, and therefore you will not get the same kind of shift that we
had in the ’90’s.
MR. CAMAROTA: One point on this.
Jared and I actually disagree about the statistics on employment for
high school dropouts 2000 to 2003, and we were looking at the same data,
so I don’t know why –
MR. BERNSTEIN: No, I was talking
MR. CAMAROTA: Oh, the number
MR. BERNSTEIN: Yes, the employment
rate—the share of the population that –
MR. CAMAROTA: Because unemployment
rate; that is, those who say they’re looking for work, went up pretty
substantially between 2000 and 2003. Okay. Well, good. So we don’t
disagree. We were both looking at the same data, that’s why –
Go ahead, Sergio?
Q: Sergio Bustos with Gannett News
Service. I just have something to clarify and then—I could point out
more data on this, but on the front page of the Backgrounder you write
that—at the top of the Backgrounder findings – “When increasing the
supply of labor between ’80 and 2000, immigration reduced the average
annual earnings of native men by and estimated – (inaudible) – or up to
My question there is, did you get the same—what was the date for native
women during that time? And secondly, is the chart on page six—when you
say “all workers,” are we talking about men and women or just men?
MR. CAMAROTA: The question had to do
with gender. Did the study look only at men or did it look at men and
MR. BORJAS: The CIS study looked
only at men. If you look at the more technical version of this study
that came out in the 2003 QJE, there are a couple of tables that
actually looks at women, and the results are pretty similar for women,
okay, but in this study it was only for men, for various reasons.
Why? Because a lot of women, especially earlier in the period—I’m
looking from 1960 through 2000, right? A lot of women, back in 1960,
1970, were not in the labor force. So we’re having a large sample of
women who clearly have chosen to stay out of the labor market. And the
question is, what wage do you assign to women who are not in the labor
market? It’s not clearly zero, because the fact that—it doesn’t mean
they have zero earnings potential, just the fact they don’t work.
Because of that reason, bringing women into the labor market analysis
often creates a lot of problems. This is not the only study that
actually focused on men. Labor economics is not, this actually is
not—it’s more or less a standard thing to sort of look at men initially
and then extend the analysis to consider what happens when you bring
women into the picture.
MR. CAMAROTA: It’s a problem
actually with the data. For some reason the Department of Labor will not
ask a series of questions on how long have you been at your current job,
how long have you worked? It would be really nice if the Census or CPS
would do that. It would make the analysis of this kind easier, but they
don’t. So that’s why people look at men.
Q: (Inaudible) – subject of the
impact of immigration on native-born citizens. I have statistics from
the Bureau of Labor Statistics that break out non-Hispanic white,
non-Hispanic black, Hispanic, and another category, “non-Hispanic
other.” And what it shows is the three years, January 2001 to January
2004, roughly the period of the Bush administration, employment of
non-Hispanic whites decline by 1,400,000; non-Hispanic blacks by
251,000. Hispanic employment grew by 1,289,000 and “non-Hispanic other”
employment grew by 1,134,000. And there was actually a total growth in
workforce— employed force of 744,000.
If you believe that non-Hispanic whites and blacks are basically
native-born Americans, it seems to me the impact is very great, and I
think it’s because of a shift in labor force. We are losing the
high-paying jobs and gaining the low-paying jobs.
MR. CAMAROTA: Anyone want to
Q: What do you have to say to that?
MR. CAMAROTA: I guess I should
repeat the —Let me repeat the question has to do with, does it look like
during the current recession that all the employment gains seem to be
going to the immigrants? And the answer to that question is, yes. I
mean, I’ve done that analysis. We have a report called “Immigration in a
Time of Recession.” Between 2000 and 2003 the number of natives working
in the United States fell and the number of immigrants holding a job
increased all of the employment gains at the aggregate level went to
So if that answers the question . . . that’s 2000 to 2003. Without
question, that’s what happened. Now, what wage impact that has, I don’t
know, and what displacement was going on isn’t measured. But, yes, if
you want to know, the number of natives working went down and the number
of immigrants working went up, so all the employment gains went to the
immigrants in that time period.
MR. BORJAS: Well, first of all, my
study really ends in 2000, my study focusing on wages as opposed to
employment changes, so it’s really hard—I think it would be a little
irresponsible of me to extend what I found to employment changes beyond
the sample period, so I really don’t know . . . I don’t have any
particular expertise saying that this study implies the following should
have happened for employment rates in the first few years between 2001
Q: I believe Mr. Bernstein and Mr.
Lerman have addressed this question to some extent.
MR. CAMAROTA: What? I’m sorry?
Q: I believe that Mr. Lerman and Mr.
Bernstein have addressed this question to some extent.
MR. CAMAROTA: Would you like to make
MR. BERNSTEIN: The only thing – this
is not particularly the comment you’re looking for, but it does always
strike me —
Q: I’m looking for the truth.
MR. BERNSTEIN: No, this is the truth
but it’s very kind of a nerdy point. You know, you’re using these
numbers that the BLS says you shouldn’t use; you’re doing something the
Bureau says that you ought not do because you’re comparing employment
counts over a period where they have to have gone in and changed what
they call the population control. They need to weight the data up to be
nationally represented, and they have a lot of trouble doing that, and
their biggest problem—Steve, you probably know about this—their biggest
problem has been accounting for immigration flows. So they keep rebasing
these weights, and when you cross those rebasing periods you’re actually
adding—you’re comparing apples and oranges—so . . .
Q: (Inaudible) – to kind of fit into
MR. BERNSTEIN: Yes, in my study,
looking at that, I did use the new 2000 base weights and take them back
to 2000, so hopefully we’re getting a nice apples to apples comparison,
but there’s always some question.
Did you want to say anything?
MR. LERMAN: I just wanted to say
something on the skill issue and losing skill jobs. I mean, the fact is
that we have—our occupational structure has definitely moved toward the
more skill occupations. When I talked about the decline, the absolute
decline in adult high school dropouts and relatively stagnant high
school graduates only, all of the increase in the adult workforce
between ’92 and 2003 were among people with at least some college. And
for the most part we absorbed them into reasonable jobs. Could we do
better? Yeah. But it’s not true that all the good jobs are going away.
MR. CAMAROTA: Well, I want to thank
you all for coming, but if you have more questions I’m sure the
panelists wouldn’t mind staying a few more minutes and letting you ask
some questions. Thank you again for coming to the Center for Immigration