The United States and Australia Compared
Monash Studies in Global Movements series
Edited by John Higley, John Nieuwenhuysen and Stine Neerup
Chapter 8: Immigration Status and Jobs Lost During the US Recession of 2007–09
Robert G. Cushing Immigrants at all socioeconomic levels have contributed mightily to American society throughout its history. Yet, when the US economy lurches through a jobless recovery in the aftermath of a severe recession and over two million authorized immigrants enter the country in the same period (Department of Homeland Security, 2010a), the question is not whether immigrants have an impact on the US economy, especially the labour force, but how to capture a sense of that impact. Analysing the relationship between US-born and immigrant workers during a severe economic downturn is a different exercise from considering that relationship over a period of sustained economic growth with only occasional (and mild) interruptions. Effects over the long term reflect the accretion of incremental shifts. In a severe downturn changes happen quickly, dramatically and unpredictably. Any economic downturn has an uneven impact on different industries and different regions of the country. Where US-born and immigrant workers happen to be located in terms of industrial mix or geographic area can make a difference in shaping the relationship between them. Such structural differences must be taken into account in any attempt to assess the impact of immigration status on jobs lost during a severe recession. Variations of human capital and segmented labour market theory dominate existing research on the economic outcomes of US-born and foreign workers. This approach directs particular attention to differences in educational attainment and industrial location to account for different outcomes between US-born and foreign workers. Research findings have been inconsistent,...
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