Low-skilled immigration is petering out, even without a wall

That’s the conclusion of a research paper published by the Brookings Institution on Thursday.

The researchers, from the University of California San Diego, say the population of low-skilled undocumented workers has been declining for years and will keep declining, even if President Trump doesn’t follow through on the wall.

“The current U.S. debate about immigration policy has a backward-looking feel to it,” the researchers write.

There was a big influx of low-skilled workers into the United States from the late 1990s to the early 2000s. Then the Great Recession crippled the housing market and the construction industry — the second-leading employer of undocumented workers in the U.S.

Worker arrivals from all of Latin America are expected to keep falling. And the authors expect immigration of young workers from Mexico to fall to practically zero by 2050, even without new policies to deter immigration.

Mexicans have long made up the largest proportion of low-skilled undocumented workers in the United States, but previous findings from Pew Research have suggested that more Mexicans are leaving the United States than coming in.

Beyond the economic downturn, the authors point to other factors keeping low-skilled immigrant workers at home.

Demographic changes in Latin America

The Baby Boom in the United States slowed in the 1960’s, but the researchers say the Latin American Baby Boom didn’t ease up until the ’80s.

So while the supply of working-age Americans began to decline in the ’80s, the supply of working-age Latin Americans kept growing, and they were drawn to the United States by strong demand for labor and higher wages.

But today there are fewer working-age people in Latin America, and the researchers say there will be even fewer in the future.

By Octavio Blanco for CNN Money
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