Transcript: Testimony of Dr. Adriana Kugler on the impacts of immigration on the U.S. economy at the Joint Economic Committee hearing on May 7, 2013

Partial transcript of the testimony of Dr. Adriana D. Kugler, Professor at Georgetown University and Chief Economist of the U.S. Department of Labor in 2011 and 2012, on the impacts of immigration on the U.S. economy. The Joint Economic Committee hearing was held on May 7, 2013:

…As we know, over generations the strength and the dynamism of the U.S. economy has relied on many new incoming generations of immigrants and today it’s no different. Immigrants continue to contribute to the U.S. economy as entrepreneurs, as job creators, as workers, as innovators, as consumers, and as taxpayers.

So, for example, we know that immigrants tend to be highly entrepreneurial even compared to their co-nationals and compatriots. We know that immigrants are over-represented among new business owners. They make up only 13% of the population but 17% of new business owners. They’re twice as likely to generate new businesses. They’re more likely to be self-employed than the native-born. And they’re twice as likely to also generate experts. They’re more likely to contribute and have higher levels of start-up capitals. And they’re more likely to create jobs also for U.S. workers.

In fact, we know, for example, that new business owners and small business owners who are immigrants generate 5 million jobs in total in the U.S. So this is very important.

Immigrants, however, are not only job creators and business owners but they are providers labor – important providers of labor.

For example, we know that one in seven U.S. workers are immigrants today, and U.S. workers – and this goes back to what Sen. Brady pointed out – they fill important skill gaps; they fill important skill gaps often at the high end of the skill distribution but also at the low end of the skill distribution.

In fact, the skills that immigrants have are very different from those that natives have. Immigrants are over-represented at the very, very high end of the skill distribution. We know that although immigrants are 13% of the population and 16% of the labor force, 24% of U.S. scientists and 47% of engineers are immigrants. So this is very important. These immigrants are twice as likely to patent. These immigrants are much more likely to engage in mathematical and computer occupations.

And at the very low end, immigrants also fill an important gap. We know that the foreign-born are much more likely to have less than a high school degree – 25.5% of them compared to 5.3% of the native-born. And this means that they also fill important gaps; they do very different jobs from the jobs that are done by the native born. In fact, they’re much more likely to occupy jobs in production, in transportation, in construction, in maintenance occupations, and in service occupations.

But for example, in agriculture alone, most of the laborers are immigrants; 72% of agricultural workers are foreign-born which makes you wonder how the agricultural sector would even work if these immigrants were not here to provide labor in those sort of jobs.

Now, some people worry that immigrants take jobs away from the U.S.-born, from native-born Americans, and they worry that they’re going to be displacing these workers; they’re going to have negative, adverse effects on their wages.

In fact, we find generally in the literature that the impacts in negative – any negative impacts that immigrants tend to have on the earning on the native-born are not found. The estimates tend to hover around zero. And in fact, the very recent studies that have been done on this topic, which are very thorough studies and which take account of the complementaries that I just talked about, tend to find that, if anything, immigrants tend to have positive impacts on the native-born and, in particular, on high-skill native-born Americans.

So, in fact, a study by [incomprehensible audio]…finds that increased immigration between 1990 and 2006 increased the earnings of the native-born by about 1%. In my own work, I find something very similar. I find that even among immigrants and native-born who are likely to do the same jobs, a 10% increase in Latino immigration tends to increase the earnings of the native-born – high school native-born Hispanics by about 1%.

All of this means that they’re more job creators. They’re people who are getting employed. They also are consumers in our economy, and immigrants, in fact, have a very high purchasing power. Among Hispanics, among Asians purchasing power reach $1 trillion and $500 billion, respectively, in 2010. This is money that ripples through the economy, and this is money that benefits all of us.

So any danger that we may be actually taking jobs away from U.S. workers seems to be unfounded on many ends.

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