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Does immigration to the USA diminish the number of jobs available to US citizens?

According to an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll:

The poll also finds that 56 percent of American voters believe that immigration helps more than it hurts [...] That's compared with 35 percent of all voters who say that immigration hurts more than it helps [...].

I've heard the argument in countless anti-immigration speeches, comments and political discourse. I'm skeptic of its validity.

Related Questions:

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    The answer will very likely vary depending on the demographics (of both citizens and immigrants). I second the assertion that this is too broad to be answerable as is. There's a difference between fancy pants quant with graduate degree from a top university, and school dropout working for minimal wage or tips; and there are differences in which (and how many) immigrants and how affect their job prospects (not to mention, the time frame matters greatly, the answer very well may vary if the study was done in 1960 vs 2010) – user5341 Oct 24 '16 at 13:50
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The claim as it is stated in the headline is not supported by the research. There are studies which show some possible negative impacts on wages for certain groups, but not a general increase in the overall unemployment rate. Here is a review of relevant research internationally (not just in the USA) by Okkerse (2008). He concludes that:

the probability that immigrants increase unemployment is low in the short run and zero in the long run. Most area analyses and time-series analyses fail to find a significant influence of immigration on (un)employment probabilities. See for instance the findings of Ganget al. (1999) and Shanet al.(1999) for the EU and of Simon et al. (1993) and Marr and Siklos (1994) for the USA and Canada. Nevertheless, some studies do find an increase in unemployment rate (Winegarden and Khor, 1991), unemployment frequency (Winkelmann and Zimmermann, 1993) and unemployment duration (Winter-Ebmer and Zweim ̀ˆuller,2000). Both area analysis and time-series analysis produce reasons to believe that if there is an employment effect it will especially hit the unemployed (Winter-Ebmer and Zweim ̀ˆuller, 2000; Gross, 2004). In the long run, immigrants create more jobs than they occupy and unemployment lowers permanently (Gross, 2002).

At least two of the studies mentioned there are about the United States specifically. Among these Simon et all (1993) look at "various cities in various years" and find:

The evidence indicates that there is little or no observed increase in aggregate native unemployment due to immigration, even in the relatively short run during which adjustment frictions should be most severe.

The findings from Winegarden and Khor (1991) are also for the US and include only, "a small, but significant, increases in unemployment among [white] teenagers (of both sexes) and [white] young women". Overall though they emphasize that "results clearly do not support commonly-expressed fears that undocumented immigration has caused any substantial increases in unemployment among the presumably most vulnerable groups in the U.S. work force." Keep in mind the caveat that their data is from 1980.

I have emphasized overall unemployment rates as this is what the headline question asks about, but keep in mind that there may other negative effects like reduction in wages and that these effects might be limited to specific populations, particularly other immigrants.

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Please note that unemployment rate and available jobs are two different things. I have focused on the second, the number of jobs available to US citizens. And there are not a finite number of jobs, but a variable amount depending on business cycle, GDP growth or contraction and other factors.

Nevertheless, we can still examine the relative size of these markets and very recently at that. It would be kind of curious if the rules of supply and demand worked for everything but employment. I would point you to this study that found

Government data show that since 2000 all of the net gain in the number of working-age (16 to 65) people holding a job has gone to immigrants (legal and illegal). This is remarkable given that native-born Americans accounted for two-thirds of the growth in the total working-age population. Though there has been some recovery from the Great Recession, there were still fewer working-age natives holding a job in the first quarter of 2014 than in 2000, while the number of immigrants with a job was 5.7 million above the 2000 level.

All of the net increase in employment went to immigrants in the last 14 years partly because, even before the Great Recession, immigrants were gaining a disproportionate share of jobs relative to their share of population growth. In addition, natives' losses were somewhat greater during the recession and immigrants have recovered more quickly from it. With 58 million working-age natives not working, the Schumer-Rubio bill (S.744) and similar House measures that would substantially increase the number of foreign workers allowed in the country seem out of touch with the realities of the U.S. labor market.

[Link: http://cis.org/all-employment-growth-since-2000-went-to-immigrants]

So to answer your question, does immigration diminish the number of jobs available to US citizens, the answer is an unambiguous yes. The number of jobs held by natives is diminishing while the number of jobs for immigrants is rising. While there are not a finite number of jobs, there are a finite jobs at a given time. Therefore immigrants are taking jobs at the expense of natives.

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    The quote listed does not seem to relate to available jobs, but to employment growth - a related by decidedly different subject. Could you please elaborate on how it ties back to the metric you're trying to measure? – Zibbobz Oct 24 '16 at 18:42
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    I'm not sure a single-sourced answer based on material from an arguably biased organization on a complex topic can count as an 'unambiguous yes'. – Jeff Lambert Oct 24 '16 at 20:13
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    @Jeff the results are from government data. They are easily reconstructed. The BLS Department of Labor stats on workforce participation independently corroborate (which are in excel, otherwise I would link). – K Dog Oct 26 '16 at 12:16
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    My intent behind that comment was to point out that I feel I could "reconstruct" that same data in a manner that arrives at a vastly different conclusion. Could you link directly to the BLS stats in your answer? – Jeff Lambert Oct 26 '16 at 19:28
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    Further, each person who arrives in a given region, then works to produce more than he or she consumes, will increase the wealth of that region, which will spur further growth in economic activity. An answer based purely on statistical analysis will not take into account what Bastiat referred to as the unseen, and the U.S. stats are full of the unseen, and we can see this by evaluating the full history of the U.S., instead of just 1920 onward, or, egads, 2000! – user26184 Nov 5 '16 at 23:23

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