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What Role Can Immigration Play in Supporting U.S. Economic Growth as the Labor Market Is Transformed by Major Forces? New MPI Brief Assesses
Press Release
Wednesday, August 14, 2019

What Role Can Immigration Play in Supporting U.S. Economic Growth as the Labor Market Is Transformed by Major Forces? New MPI Brief Assesses

WASHINGTON – Major changes in demographics, automation and alternative staffing will dramatically transform the U.S. labor market over the next few decades. A shrinking native-born workforce, baby boomer retirements, tech-driven innovation but also job displacement, and increases in contracted and outsourced labor, among other trends, will have significant effects on the U.S. economy. What role can immigration play in mitigating undesirable outcomes and supporting U.S. economic growth and competitiveness?

In a think piece commissioned by the Migration Policy Institute (MPI)’s new Rethinking U.S. Immigration Policy Initiative, a former U.S. Labor Department chief economist assesses how immigration policy can be tailored to create a stronger American economy.

Immigration could help employers hire for hard-to-fill positions and could reduce the costs and increase the availability of goods and services, especially in growing sectors such as health and elder care, writes Harry J. Holzer, a Georgetown University public policy professor and Brookings Institution non-resident senior fellow.

But in Immigration and the U.S. Labor Market: A Look Ahead, Holzer notes that while immigration may benefit employers and workers with complementary skills, particularly at the high end of the skills spectrum, it can negatively affect low-skilled workers who have already been hard hit by technological change, globalization and weakened labor unions.

Reforms of immigration policy to support economic growth should thus be paired with a broader agenda and investment in a range of federal and state efforts to raise the skills and earnings of workers without college degrees who have been (or will be) most hurt by changing forces and who are most vulnerable to unanticipated labor-market shifts, Holzer argues.

The multi-year Rethinking U.S. Immigration Policy Initiative aims to generate a big-picture, evidence-driven vision for the role immigration can and should play in America’s future. A second think piece, How Does Immigration Fit into the Future of the U.S. Labor Market?, will be released tomorrow. It weighs the costs and benefits of immigration on the economy.

Read Immigration and the U.S. Labor Market: A Look Head here: www.migrationpolicy.org/research/immigration-us-labor-market-look-ahead.

To keep up with the latest developments in the Rethinking initiative, sign up for updates here.


The Migration Policy Institute (MPI) is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank in Washington, D.C. dedicated to analysis of the movement of people worldwide. MPI provides analysis, development and evaluation of migration and refugee policies at the local, national and international levels.