May 20, 2015

U.S. Immigration Is Down, Support Is Up



EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Opponents of immigration argue that America is undergoing the largest wave of legal immigration in American history, that it has lowered wages, and that Americans oppose this influx. But all of these views are incorrect. Immigration has been much lower than its historic peaks; there has been less competition from new workers in recent decades; and a growing majority of Americans oppose restricting immigration. Here are the facts:

  • Today’s immigration rate—the number of new immigrants each year as a share of the population—is half the rate that it was for a century from 1830 to 1929.
  • Competition for jobs from new workers—immigrants and natives—has plunged. The labor force grew at nearly half the rate from 1981 to 2013 that it grew from 1948 to 1980, meaning more competition cannot explain tepid wage growth.
  • Competition from new lower-skilled workers has dropped even more dramatically. Labor force growth from these workers declined by 68 percent since 1981.
  • America saw 70 percent higher income growth for wage earners from 1948 to 1980 when labor force grew faster than from 1981 to 2013 when it slowed.
  • Nearly 60 percent of Americans oppose reducing immigration. According to Gallup polling, support for immigration has nearly doubled since the 1990s.

Immigration restrictions will not make America more competitive or prosperous. Congress should look to the dynamic post-World War II period, when the growing American labor force was the envy of the world, and reform the legal immigration system, replenishing our aging workforce with new talent.

Read the full study here.