Immigration and Job Growth

A new study by the Harvard Business School suggests links between immigration and job growth, reports Daniel Weintraub of the Sacramento Bee in the San Diego Union-Tribune.

A major piece of conventional wisdom about immigrants – that newcomers take jobs away from native Americans – has been questioned in a new study of urban job growth by a Harvard Business School professor and expert on inner-city economics.

The study, in fact, seems to show just the opposite: Cities with higher concentrations of immigrants are the places where the number of jobs is growing the fastest.

The research by Michael E. Porter, founder of the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City, found that about half of the 80 largest inner cities in America had job growth between 1995 and 2003.

Inner cities that lost jobs and those that gained them tended to have similar percentages of minority residents, and their residents had about the same level of high school and college education.

But the two groups of cities differed sharply when it came to one demographic measure: immigration. Inner cities that gained jobs had populations that, on average, were 31 percent immigrant. Inner cities that lost jobs had populations that averaged just 12 percent immigrants.

“There is a direct correlation between immigrant populations and job growth in inner cities,” Porter writes. “Immigrants clearly and more readily identify the unique business conditions and opportunities that inner cities offer and are able to capitalize upon them. In addition, they are attractive to small and large businesses seeking willing and available labor.”

A crucial question left unanswered by Porter’s study is the extent to which immigrants cause job growth or are attracted by it. If the presence of immigrants in an economy leads to more business creation and job growth, then that is a very important finding. If immigrants are merely more likely to go to a place that already has a vibrant economy, then the connection between their presence and job growth is not as significant.

via RealClearPolitics

Well, let’s compare the records of Britain, Ireland, and Sweden with that of, say, France, as reported in the International Herald Tribune on 21 October 2005 (via the Dynamist).

It turns out the doomsayers were partly right: Nearly a year and a half after the expansion of the European Union, floods of East Europeans have washed into Britain.

Poles, Lithuanians, Latvians and other Easterners are arriving at an average rate of 16,000 a month, a result of Britain’s decision to allow unlimited access to the citizens of the eight East European countries that joined the EU last year.

They work as bus drivers, farmhands and dentists, as waitresses, builders, and saleswomen; they are transforming parts of London into Slavic and Baltic enclaves where pickles and Polish beer are stacked in delicatessens and Polish can be heard on the streets almost as often as English.

But the doomsayers were also wrong: Multicultural Britain has absorbed these workers like a sponge. Unemployment is still rock-bottom at 4.7 percent, and economic growth continues apace.

Since May 2004, more than 230,000 East Europeans have registered to work in Britain, many more than the government expected, in what is shaping up to be one of the great migrations of recent decades.

Yet the government says it still has shortages of 600,000 workers in fields like nursing and construction.

“They are coming in and making a very good reputation as highly skilled, highly motivated workers,” said Christopher Thompson, a diplomat at the British Embassy in Warsaw. “The U.K. is pleased with the way it’s progressed over the first 16 months, and we’re confident it will be a beneficial relationship for both sides in the future.”

Tens of thousands of East Europeans have also moved to Ireland and Sweden, the only other West European countries that opened their labor markets to the new EU members….

Fearing a massive influx of East Europeans after enlargement, other West European countries threw up barriers that will be lowered only gradually over the next decade. A Pole seeking to work in France, for example, still needs to apply for a work permit. France issued 737 such permits to Poles in the 10 months after enlargement; that is the number of Poles who arrive in Britain every two days.

Allowing immigrants access to jobs and business opportunities seems to be key.

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Filed under economics, U.S.

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