Immigration and Its Effect on the Economy of the U.S

The 1990s have brought the largest influx of immigrants into labor force of the
United States of any decade in this nation\'s history. A panel of social science
scholars concluded their assessment of U.S. society with the observation that
"America\'s biggest import is people" and determined that "at a time when
attention is directed to the general decline in American exceptionalism,
American immigration continues to flow at a rate unknown elsewhere in the world"
[Oxford Analytica 1986, 20]. Unlike earlier mass immigration periods to the
United States the present day wave of immigration to the U.S. show "no sign of
imminent decline" [Bouvier 1991, 18]. "In today\'s world setting, international
migration is a discretionary action that is regulated by the specific actions of
the governments of individual nation-states." There is no international
obligation for any nation to allow others to enter or to work, in fact, most
nations do not admit immigrants for permanent settlement

Mass immigration has played a significant role in the economic history of the
United States, nevertheless the harsh fact is that what may be necessary and
beneficial at one time, may not be so at another. The demand for labor is being
affected by "restructuring forces stemming from the nature and pace of
technological change; from the stiff international competition the United States
that now confronts for the first time in its history; from major shifts in
consumer spending away from goods toward services; and from the substantial

In the national defense expenditures brought about by the end of the Cold War in
the early 1990\'s". (vernon m. briggs,jr. and stephen moore. pg 35.) In looking
toward the future the twenty occupations projected to grow the fastest in the
1990s, half are related to the growing computer and health fields. The shift to
a service based economy is leading to an upgrading of the skills and education
required by the labor force. On the other hand the occupations that require
minimal skills and education have declined and are presently forecasted to
continue to do so. Immigration can be useful in the short run as a means of
providing qualified workers where shortages of qualified domestic workers exist.
But, the long-term objective should be that these jobs should go to citizens and
resident aliens. "The 1990 Census revealed that the percentage of foreign-born
adults (25 years and over) who had less than a ninth grade education was 25
percent (compared to only 10 percent for native-born adults) and whereas 23
percent of native-born adults did not have a high school diploma, 42 percent of
foreign-born adults did not. Immigration, therefore, is a major contributor to
the nation\'s adult illiteracy problem. On the other hand, both foreign-born
adults and native-born adults had the same percentage of persons who had a
bachelor\'s degree or higher (20.3 percent and 20.4 percent, respectively), but
with regard to those who had graduate degrees, foreign-born adults had a
considerably higher percentage than did the native-born, 3.8 percent versus 2.4
percent.( )" It is at both ends of the U.S. labor force that immigration
has its greatest impact at the bottom and at the top of the economic ladder.
"The overall unemployment rate of foreign-born workers in 1994 was 9.2 percent,
while the comparable national unemployment rate at the time was 6.5 percent.
The unemployment rate for foreign-born workers with less than a ninth grade
education in 1994 was 13 percent; for those with some high school but no diploma,
it was 15.2 percent. The comparable rates for native-born workers were 13.5
percent and 29.9 percent." Consequently, the greatest labor market impact of
immigration is in the sector of the labor market that is already having the
greatest difficulty finding employment. "The 1990 Census also disclosed that
79.1 percent of the foreign-born population (five years old and over) speak a
language other than English (compared to 7.8 percent of the native-born) and
that 47.0 percent of the foreign-born (five years and over) reported that they
do not speak English very well.( )" The ability to speak English in an
increasingly service-oriented economy has been definitively linked to the
ability to advance in the U.S. labor market of the post-1965 era [Chiswick 1992,
15]. Considering the factors aforementioned "the incidence of poverty among
families of the foreign-born population in 1990 was 50 percent higher than that
of native-born families or that 25 percent of the families with a foreign-born
householder who entered the country since 1980 were living in poverty in 1990 (
)." "Nor is it surprising to find that immigrant families make