The plan gives preference for legal residency to high-skilled, English-speaking immigrants. NPR’s Stacey Vanek Smith talks with Abigail Cooke of SUNY-Buffalo about the economic impact of immigration.
STACEY VANEK SMITH, HOST:
As we mentioned earlier, the Trump administration threw its support behind an immigration plan this week. The plan cuts immigration in half and gives preference to highly skilled, English-speaking immigrants. Supporters say immigrants take jobs away from American workers and push down wages. Abigail Cooke studies the economic impact of immigration at the State University of New York at Buffalo. She joins us now.
ABIGAIL COOKE: Thank you.
SMITH: What impact have low-skilled immigrants had on the wages of blue-collar American workers? What does the data tell us?
COOKE: There’s been a ton of research on this by a lot of people. And what they find is that the size of any effects at all of immigration on wages is really, really, really small and that the few people who do experience negative wage effects are similar immigrants who just arrived a little bit earlier or native-born workers who did not finish high school. But even for these groups, any of the negative effects are really, really tiny on their wages.
SMITH: Well, let’s talk about that. What about American workers who did not get high school diplomas? What happens to their wages when immigration increases?
COOKE: There’s some evidence that native-born workers who don’t finish high school do compete with low-skill immigrants for the same jobs – in some cases. And when that happens, some of those people lose their jobs, their wages don’t go up over time if they’re having to switch jobs. But the size of this effect is really small. And one of the other things that happens, at least as often, is that those native-born workers are prompted to find new jobs doing maybe slightly different things. And often, those end up being slightly higher-skill jobs that come with higher wages.
SMITH: Oh, like what?
COOKE: Back of the house versus front of the house in restaurant service, even sometimes, you know, bumping up to a sort of lower management level, or something where you’re required to have a bit stronger English skills.
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