E.g., 10/17/2019
E.g., 10/17/2019

How Does Immigration Fit into the Future of the U.S. Labor Market?

Policy Briefs
August 2019

How Does Immigration Fit into the Future of the U.S. Labor Market?

2018 was a banner year for the U.S. economy, but long-run projections are much less bright. Intensifying forces—including the aging of the workforce, stagnating labor force participation rates, and emerging gaps between the skills U.S. employers seek and those workers possess—are poised to significantly reshape the U.S. labor market. Other trends, including globalization and automation, are likely to dramatically transform how and where work is done.

Against the backdrop of these changes, this think piece asks: What role can immigration play in bolstering future workforce and economic growth, and meeting shifting demand for both high- and low-skilled labor?

In addition to supporting labor force growth, the brief’s authors conclude that immigrant workers can help mitigate a number of other symptoms of the U.S. economy’s long-run malaise, including low productivity growth, declining domestic geographic mobility, and falling entrepreneurship. But while immigration may benefit employers, consumers, and some U.S. workers, it can adversely affect others, particularly low-skilled U.S. natives and earlier-arrived immigrants. A plan to increase employment-based immigration, the authors contend, should thus be paired with policies and programs to support these groups in acquiring new skills and shifting to growing sectors.

The brief is part of MPI’s multiyear Rethinking U.S. Immigration Policy initiative, which aims to generate a big-picture, evidence-driven vision for the role immigration can and should play in America’s future. To learn more about the initiative and read related research, check out the initiative's home page.

Table of Contents 

I. Introduction

II. The Macroeconomic Implications of Slower Labor Force Growth

III. The Aging of the U.S. Workforce

IV. Growing Skill Mismatch

V. Immigration’s Role in Workforce Trends

VI. Immigration’s Effect on U.S. Natives

VII. Immigration versus Automation: A False Choice

VIII. Globalization and Offshoring

IX. Fiscal Effects of Immigration

X. How Much Is the “Right” Amount of Immigration?

XI. Conclusion