A prevailing narrative about immigration is that migrants displace U.S.-born residents in the workforce, but new research from University of California, Davis, economists shows that’s not the case.

The study, published in the Journal of Population Economics, details how the COVID-19 pandemic led to a decrease in immigration to the U.S. and how often filled by migrants were not filled by U.S.-born residents.

“We found that this drop in immigrants corresponded also to a drop in employment in some specific types of occupations, including accommodation and food services, retail trade, non-durable goods manufacturing, and health care and ,” said Giovanni Peri, a professor of economics and director of the UC Davis Global Migration Center. “The question is, ‘Did Americans move into those sectors and into those states that experienced the biggest drop in immigrants?’ And the answer is, ‘no.'”

Aggregating data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, the study, according to Peri, has the potential to change prejudiced views of immigration by providing data and facts.

Immigration can bolster the labor market but “changing the attitude toward immigration starts with changing our understanding and our knowledge of the facts,” Peri said.

COVID-19 pandemic adds to immigration slowdown

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, immigration to the U.S. already faced a slowdown due to policies implemented by the Trump administration. But the pandemic halted international travel, leading to a in the net growth of working-age (18–65 years old) foreign-born individuals.


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