The American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and The Partnership For A New American Economy have released a study that found that immigrants boost employment for U.S. natives. The purpose and goal of the study, by Madeline Zavodny and entitled “Immigration and American Jobs,” was to explore the effect foreign-born employees have on the overall U.S. job market and to identify ways in which immigration policy and reform can affect innovation and job growth in the United States. Using data from the U.S. Census Bureau and other sources, the study concludes that immigration policy can and should be a significant component of America’s economic recovery.

The study found that immigrants with advanced degrees, specifically, in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), boost employment for U.S. natives. In fact, between 2000 and 2007, employment of an additional 100 foreign-born workers in STEM fields with advanced degrees from U.S. universities was associated with an increase of 262 jobs for U.S. natives.

Additionally, according to the study, temporary foreign workers, both skilled and less skilled, also boosted U.S. employment over the same period. Adding 100 H-1B skilled workers to the U.S. workforce resulted in an additional 183 jobs among U.S. natives. Even more notable was that adding 100 H-2B (less-skilled) workers to the overall workforce resulted in an additional 464 jobs for U.S. natives; an impressive statistic that seems to counter the mainstream perception that less-skilled immigrant workers have a negative impact on the U.S. job market and “steal” jobs from U.S. workers.

To illustrate this in a real-world context, the study provides the following example: If an employer is able to hire more foreign-born roofers, American contractor can ultimately build more houses and hire more U.S. workers. This can include U.S. workers in both skilled and less-skilled positions, such as workers for the “front office” and “foremen” to supervise workers.

The study found no evidence that foreign-born workers, in the aggregate, hurt U.S. employment. The empirical data demonstrated that immigration policy actually was a growth factor for the U.S. economy. Therefore, the study suggests, policy reform should be a significant component of America’s economic recovery.

While the most recent bi-partisan federal legislative effort to enact immigration policy reform appears to be stalled in committee, studies like this may yet restart the movement for comprehensive reform by correcting perceptions and identifying the positive benefits the right legislation can have on the U.S. job market.

Jackson Lewis will continue to monitor both state and federal legislative activity and will keep you updated on policy changes that may impact employers and their foreign national workers.