The proportion of teenagers in the U.S. summer labor force declined for two decades while the number of legal and illegal immigrants holding a job has more than doubled, a new report from Center for Immigration Studies states.
As the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business associations lobby Congress for increases in legal immigration, seasonal workers in particular, the study found the decline in summer employment has affected teenagers from every segment of society.
“The evidence indicates that immigration has likely accounted for a significant share of the decline in teen labor force participation,” wrote Steven Camarota, the center’s director of research. “The decline in teen work is worrisome because 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.”
In the summer of 2017, 41 percent of U.S.-born teenagers counted in the labor force, but just 35 percent held a job, according to the report.
“In 2018, we project only a slight improvement to 42 percent in the labor force and 36 percent actually working — both levels well below what they used to be,” the center said. “Immigrants and teenagers often do the same kind of work. In the summer of 2017, in the 25 occupations employing the most U.S.-born teenagers, more than one in five workers was an immigrant.”
The report stated that over time in 10 states where immigrants increased as the large share of workers, labor force participation of U.S.-born teenagers declined by 26 percentage points.
“The most likely reason immigrants displace U.S.-born teenagers is that the vast majority of immigrants are skilled adults — relatively few people migrate before age 20,” the center said. “This gives immigrants a significant advantage over U.S.-born teenagers who typically have much less work experience.”