NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


April 11, 2006

The United States has an ample supply of native-born workers with a high-school education or less, but they are being pushed out of the labor force by illegal immigrants, says columnist Rich Lowry.

From 2000 to 2005, the proportion of high-school dropouts holding a job dropped from 53 to 48 percent, and this trend was particularly pronounced in states with the highest levels of immigration, says Lowry:

  • Nearly 80 percent of illegals have no more than a high-school degree and 60 percent have less than a high-school degree.
  • An immigrant without a high-school diploma -- whether legal or illegal -- consumes $89,000 more in governmental services than he pays in taxes; an immigrant with only a high-school diploma is a net cost of $31,000.
  • Illegals also cost the federal government $10 billion a year, state and local government lose even more. And while illegal immigrants do pay some taxes, they do not pay enough to cover their share of governmental expenses like Medicaid.

Moreover, illegals provided minuscule benefits to the economy, says Lowry.

  • All workers without a high-school education -- illegal and otherwise -- account for only 3 percent of economic output.
  • Even if illegal immigrants were dominant in low-skill industries, their broader impact would be small; nearly 60 percent of cabdrivers are native-born and in only four of 473 job classifications are immigrants a majority of the workers.

However, if illegal immigrants were legalized, their net annual cost to the federal government would only increase, tripling to $30 billion a year, says Lowry.

Source: Rich Lowry, "Importing the Latin American poor," Jewish World Review, April 4, 2006.

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