Those workers are a critical component of our workforce.
We often learn about the leading, high-earning jobs, but a new report from the Migration Policy Institute looks at these jobs and their importation or outflow of immigrants and foreign workers during the 2017 fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30, 2017.
More immigrant workers tend to fill high-demand jobs and higher-skilled, high-paying jobs than they show up in job classifications, according to the report. And this shows up when comparing a workforce by country of origin. The foreign-born worker population is more likely to be in jobs within a given occupation than natives are.
When it comes to jobs that are classified as part of this “basic necessities” sector, where workers perform basic manual tasks, immigrant workers are overrepresented. In 2017, about 32 percent of all immigrant workers in this sector and nearly 35 percent of this sector’s foreign-born workers work in the U.S. workforce.
In every sector, there were more immigrant workers than natives. Moreover, this was most pronounced in the science, technology, engineering and math sector (STEM) and in occupations with relatively high wage growth, such as federal, state and local government, which have an estimated 40.5 percent immigrant workforce.
According to Jeffrey Miron, a professor of economics at Harvard, immigrants enrich the U.S. economy and take some of the pressure off of natives from deciding to have children. When immigrants become more heavily employed in an occupation, the labor force participation rate for all those workers rises by about 7 percent, he added.
“What this study does is give us a snapshot of the workers who move into our workforce, who are here legally and who are not,” Miron said.
It’s common to hear that Americans aren’t as eager to change jobs, or talk about a “bad blood” between immigrant workers and natives. These two things are actually true, but not necessarily in the same way, he said.
Immigrants want the opportunity to work in certain occupations. Immigrants desire the economic opportunity to become U.S. citizens and contribute to society. Miron calls this “productive migratory pattern.”
“Although it may be a little better,” he said.