WASHINGTON – A new study concludes that immigration directly affects summer unemployment rates among American teenagers.
In the summer of 2007,48 percent of U.S.-born teenagers were working,a decline from 64 percent in 1994. The number of immigrants holding jobs doubled during that same period.
The study,”A Drought of Summer Jobs: Immigration and the Long-Term Decline in Employment Among U.S.-Born Teenagers,” was released Wednesday by the Center for Immigration Studies.
“This decline is a matter of concern,” said Steven Camarota,lead author of the report and director of research at the Center for Immigration Studies at a discussion held Wednesday.
“There is a decent body of research … showing that there are negative consequences for these kids down the road: if they don't work as teenagers this can play out for the rest of their lives,” said Camarota,who advocates for reducing immigration.
The study found that from 1994 to 2007 teenage employment suffered the most while immigrants made significant job gains in the same occupations: an average of 10 percentage point increase in the immigrant share of the workforce contributed to a 7.9 percentage point reduction in the native teenage workforce participation rate.
The numbers are true for all races and financial backgrounds of U.S-born teenagers,and although the report focuses on summer jobs,it states that the trend is consistent throughout the year.
The center's analysis used monthly data gathered by the Current Population Survey,which is collected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
In the 10 states with the most immigrants in the workforce,including Florida,California and Texas,45 percent of U.S.-born teenagers held jobs during the summer. In contrast,58 percent of the teenagers held jobs in the 10 states where immigrants are the smallest share of workers,including West Virginia,Montana and Wyoming.
Camarota said native teens are displaced in part because immigrant workers tend to be mature adults.
Ninety five percent of the immigrants working in traditionally teenage occupations,such as waiting tables and babysitting,are more than 20 years old.
Immigrant workers are often willing to work for lower pay,Camarota added.
Daryl Scott,professor and former chair of the history department at Howard University,said lack of opportunity,not laziness,is preventing teenagers from getting jobs.
“In a way,something fundamental has shifted in our culture,” said Scott,who helped draft a proposal to overhaul the country's immigration system last year. “What we are witnessing is that individuals and corporations both seem to be making the decision not to employ teenagers.”
B. Lindsay Lowell,director of policy studies for the Institute for the Study of International Migration at Georgetown University,countered that some teens don't want some of the jobs that immigrants now do. He said some federal employment programs have been eliminated,and a higher minimum wage has encouraged employers to hire full-time employee rather hire teens part time.
Although the study does not offer solutions to the problem,Camarota said there are policy implications.
“If you have less immigration,assuming that you made that policy choice,it would draw a lot more teens back to the labor market,” he said.