After Congress re-wrote U.S. immigration policy in 1965, the foreign-born population increased dramatically in an unprecedented immigration wave that reshaped the racial and ethnic makeup of the United States. At the same time, wages stagnated, increased slightly, and then fell.
Since 1970, the foreign-born population of the U.S. increased 325 percent, the Congressional Research Service found, while wages for the bottom 90 percent of earners decreased by 8 percent and their share of income decreased by 16 percent.
Workers in industries where demand for work is increasing are actually the hardest hit by continued decline in wages, reported The New York Times. One explanation for that trend, evidenced by the Brookings Institution, is that immigrants are flooding those labor markets in particular. The left-of-center think tank found in 2012 that many of the jobs in the occupations deemed fastest and largest growing by the Bureau of Labor Statistics are going to immigrants — in many of the same occupations The New York Times reported have seen the greatest decline in wages in recent years.
Harvard Professor George Borjas estimates high immigration levels from 1980-2000 lowered the wages of lower-skilled working Americans by 7.4 percent, and that current immigration rates cost American workers who compete with foreign labor $402 billion every year.
Record numbers of Americans do not even hold paying jobs.
The labor force participation rate has fallen to its lowest level since the 1970’s, when the foreign-born population began to surge and wages flatlined. Nearly 40 percent of Americans 16 or older are not working or looking for work, and the share of both men and women in the workforce has dropped.
This is not merely the result of an aging population. “The share of prime-age men — those 25 to 54 years old — who are not working has more than tripled since the late 1960s, to 16 percent,” reported The New York Times in December, adding: “Working, in America, is in decline.”
All net job gains among the working-age population of the United States from 2000-2014 went to foreign-born workers, according to an analysis by the Center for Immigration Studies based entirely on federal data. At the same time, the number of working-age residents born in the U.S. increased by nearly 17 million, accounting for two-thirds of the growth in the total working-age population. (RELATED: US-Born Workers Lose Jobs, While Foreign-Born Find Them)
“The point is, I believe, that in this new economy, workers and start-ups and small businesses need more of a voice, not less,” Obama said in his State of the Union address, immediately after blaming greedy executives for stagnant wages in the country. “The rules should work for them.”
Nearly one in five U.S. residents will be an immigrant by 2060, largely because of legal immigration, not illegal immigration, a recent analysis of Census data found. If federal law is not changed, the U.S. is on track to issue 10 million green cards over the next decade — a massive new permanent resident bloc larger than the combined populations of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.
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