Immigrants Fill the Gaps They Tend to Be Either Highly Educated or Willing to Work Low-Wage Jobs, Explains Penn State's Fariborz Ghadar

By Ghadar, Fariborz | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA), June 8, 2014 | Go to article overview

Immigrants Fill the Gaps They Tend to Be Either Highly Educated or Willing to Work Low-Wage Jobs, Explains Penn State's Fariborz Ghadar


Ghadar, Fariborz, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)


Though it cannot be denied that the United States has an unemployment problem, immigrants are not the reason. Even if you ignore the positive impact many have on the job market through becoming entrepreneurs, immigrants still do not create a liability.

Immigrants actually are the perfect complement to U.S. workers, who typically fill mid-range positions. Research indicates that immigrants are both better- and worse-educated than U.S.-born citizens. They are thus well equipped to fill the gaps in our nation's workforce.

At one end of the spectrum, more than 1.9 percent of foreign- born workers have a doctorate degree, nearly twice the share of U.S.-born citizens. These people make up 27 percent of the U.S. workforce with a doctoral degree, which is especially impressive because the foreign-born population represents only 13 percent of the U.S. population.

Additionally, research shows that for every 100 foreign students who receive an advanced STEM degree in the United States (in science, technology, engineering or math), 262 additional jobs are created.

Under our current immigration policies, however, employers are unable to fully make use of immigrants' potential. Case in point: the short filing period for H-1 B visas, administered to immigrants with college degrees and typically applied for by companies rather than by individuals. In just 10 weeks during 2012, the number of H- 1B visas for fiscal year 2013 ran out, even as the unemployment rate for computer and math occupations was 3.5 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, indicating a lack of U.S. workers with these skills.

As a result of visa restrictions, companies have started going abroad. While many American manufacturers and other businesses used to outsource jobs for cheaper labor, now it's often to access highly skilled labor. …

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