The study’s author, Giovanni Peri, analyzed decades of Census Bureau data. He says the wages of native workers with at least a high school diploma increased an average of four percent over the past 14 years. He says they have immigrants to thank:
“Immigrant workers, because of their differences in skills and abilities relative to native workers, tend to take jobs that really complement, rather than compete with the one performed by native workers.”
Peri says newer immigrants move into lower paying, manual labor jobs. He contends that allows native workers, who have better language and networking skills, to move up into supervisory or higher paying jobs. The losers, finds Peri, are the immigrants already established in the country. Their wages dropped by 17 to 20 percent over the same period.
“But in California, 30% of all your workers are immigrants.”
Steve Camarota is with the Center for Immigration Studies in Washington D.C., which favors limits on legal immigration.
“What his research shows, if taken at face value, is that workers who generally are the poorest, are made 17% poorer so that the rest of the population can be made just 4% richer.”
Camarota doesn’t buy into the study– he says it doesn’t consider the impact immigration in California may have on native workers in other states. Peri, the study’s author, acknowledges the labor market is only one aspect of the immigration debate.