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Immigration Lessens Jobs for U.S. Teens, Report Finds

Wednesday, 12 May 2010 11:11 AM

Competition from both legal and illegal immigrants is a major reason that U.S.-born teenagers face dismal prospects for summer jobs, according to a report from the Center for Immigration Studies.

This summer is on track to be the worst ever for the employment of U.S.-born teenagers, classified as ages 16 to 19, says a news release the center issued Wednesday as it unveiled its report.

Even before the recession, the share of U.S.-born teens who were working or looking for work was declining, according to the center, a nonprofit, nonpartisan Washington, D.C.-based think tank that analyzes the effects of immigration on the United States.

The center expressed concern about the lag in teen employment “because a large body of research shows that those who do not hold jobs as teenagers often fail to develop the work habits necessary to function in the labor market, creating significant negative consequences for them later in life.”

Many states where immigrants are the largest share of workers also have lowest teenage labor force participation, including California, New Jersey, New York, Nevada, Florida, Hawaii, Texas, and Arizona, said Steven Camarota, the center’s research director and lead author of the report, "A Drought of Summer Jobs: Immigration and the Long-Term Decline in Employment Among U.S.-Born Teenagers."

Other findings in the report include:
  • Last summer was the worst job market for U.S.-born teenagers since citizenship data was first collected in 1994. Just 45 percent were in the labor force, which means they worked or were looking for work. Only one-third actually held a job.
  • Between 1994 and 2000, a time of significant economic expansion in the United States, the labor force participation of U.S.-born teens declined from 64 percent to 61 percent. By the summer of 2007, before this recession, it was down to 48 percent.
  • The number of U.S.-born teenagers not in the labor force increased from 4.7 million in 1994 to 8.1 million in 2007. Last summer, it stood at 8.8 million.
  • The severity of the decline is similar for U.S.-born black, Hispanic, and white teens. The fall-off also is similar for teens from both high- and low-income households.
  • Immigrants and teenagers often do the same kind of work. In the summer of 2007, among the 10 occupations employing the most U.S.-born teenagers, one in five workers was an immigrant.
  • Comparisons across states in 2007 show that in the 10 states where immigrants are the largest share of workers, just 45 percent of U.S.-born teens were in the summer labor force, compared with 58 percent in the 10 states where immigrants are the smallest share of workers.
  • The most likely reason immigrants displace U.S.-born teenagers is that the vast majority of immigrants are fully developed adults — relatively few people migrate before age 20. This gives immigrants a significant advantage over U.S.-born teenagers, who typically have much less work experience.

Although the report focused on summer jobs, it notes that the decline in the employment of U.S.-born teenagers is year-round, including a decline leading up to Christmas, the other peak period of seasonal employment.

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