David R. Henderson  

Borjas Concludes that Male Illegal Aliens Come Here to Work

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Borjas reports the good news on illegal aliens.

Harvard economist George Borjas, who is fairly critical of immigration, wrote yesterday that he has concluded that most male illegal aliens come to the United States to work. He reports on the results of a study he did in which he teased out data from the Pew Research Center and the Current Population Survey. He writes:

This paper provides a comprehensive empirical study of the labor supply behavior of undocumented immigrants in the United States. Using newly developed methods that attempt to identify undocumented status for foreign-born persons sampled in the Current Population Surveys, the empirical analysis documents a number of findings, including the fact that the work propensity of undocumented men is much larger than that of other groups in the population; that this gap has grown over the past two decades; and that the labor supply elasticity of undocumented men is very close to zero, suggesting that their labor supply is almost perfectly inelastic.

Take a look at his graphs in the link. Specifically, of men aged 20 to 65:

. 74% of native Americans (people native to America) were employed.
. 81% of legal immigrants were employed.
. 85% of illegal aliens were employed.

His paper is here.

By the way, George wrote the piece on immigration for The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics.

Comments and Sharing

COMMENTS (8 to date)
Jon Murphy writes:

Makes sense. Given that illegal immigrants are not allowed welfare anyway and applying for some could draw unwanted attention, they need to support a family somehow, so they work.

ThaomasH writes:

Of course for Borjas THAT is the problem. :)

David R. Henderson writes:

Of course for Borjas THAT is the problem. :)
It’s one of the two problems. The other one, that somewhat contradicts the jobs one, is that he worries about immigrants going on welfare. Although you might be right, because maybe he worries about legal immigrants going on welfare. Check the piece he wrote for my Encyclopedia and see what you think.

Shane L writes:

A 2015 briefing paper in UK's House of Commons describes much higher unemployment rates among the (rather crudely-described) ethnic minority groups of "Asian" (9%) "black" (13%) and "other ethnic backgrounds" (10%) compared with "white" (5%).

From the UK's 2011 Census:

"The proportion of men aged 16 to 64 who were unemployed was highest in the Other Black (17%), White and Black Caribbean (16%) and Caribbean (15%) ethnic groups. For women it was highest for Black African (12%), White and Black Caribbean (11%) and Other Black (11%) groups."

I also assume that most migrants want to work and participate in their new home. Is it troubling, though, that they (new arrivals or generations-old ethnic communities) average out at relatively high unemployment rates? I don't especially blame them, perhaps bigotry in the market hinders their chances to get good accommodation and employment. Nevertheless might it not be the case that relatively open migration policies means higher unemployment rates in the future, with ethnic "indigenous" people paying higher taxes to support unemployed members of other ethnic communities?

Foobarista writes:

Many illegal workers do both: work under the table, and collect various types of government aid.

B.B. writes:

I accept the official statistics.

But are they related?

If there were no illegal immigration, and less legal immigration, would the employment-population rate for working age native-born men be higher?

To me that is the question to be answered. Maybe we are not able to answer. If so, then we should simply not talk about the issue.

As Einstein said, not everything that counts can be measured, and not everything that is measured, counts.

Ally writes:

Shane L:
"Nevertheless might it not be the case that relatively open migration policies means higher unemployment rates in the future, with ethnic "indigenous" people paying higher taxes to support unemployed members of other ethnic communities?"

As I believe Milton Friedman pointed out several decades ago, this is an argument against welfare, not an argument against liberal immigration policy.

Shane L writes:

Fair enough, Ally, but I doubt welfare states are going anywhere for the moment. As it stands, an open border policy might lead to higher taxes for indigenous peoples in the longer run.

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