Teenagers May Be Seeing Their Jobs Go To Immigrants

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Are immigrants stealing summer jobs from teenagers?

Even immigration restrictionist groups can't say for sure, but one such organization claims there is a correlation between the rise of immigrant employment and the decline in the number of U.S. born teens who participate in the labor force during the summer.

And, the group concludes, it is not necessarily a good thing.

The Washington, D.C.-based Center for Immigration Studies, which opposes increased immigration, recently released a report examining employment rates for teens and found that they are dropping fast. In 2000, the report states, 61 percent of teens were either working or looking for work. That number apparently slid to 48 percent in the summer of 2007, before the recession hit. The decline was similar for teens regardless of race, ethnicity, or economic status.

Steven Camarota, CIR's director of research and the report's lead author, tells Hair Balls the drop is a cause for concern because there is data that suggests that teenagers who don't have jobs do not develop many of the social skills and work habits necessary to succeed in the work force when they get older.

"As a consequence," Camarota says, "kids who don't develop these skills are significantly less likely to work in their 20s and beyond ... [which] seems to support the idea that there is an intrinsic value in having teenagers work."

As part of the study, Camarota looked at employment rates for both documented and undocumented immigrant workers. He claims that immigrants and teenagers often do and compete for the same job. Across the country, he found that 45 percent of teens in 2007 were working or looking for work in the 10 states where immigrants are the largest share of workers, while in the 10 states were immigrants make up the smallest share of workers, the percent of teens in the labor force was much higher, at 58 percent.

In Texas, Camarota claims, immigrant employment rates grew from 12 to 20 percent during the period 1994-1995 to 2006-2007, while teen employment fell a little more than 16 percent, from 62 to 45 percent.

Camarota says he believes immigration plays "a big part, but not the only part," in why fewer teenagers appear to be working these days.

"When we think about immigration," Camarota says, "we unfortunately have this tendency to either emphasize all of the costs or all of the benefits. Some of those costs and benefits are hard to quantify ... but there are consequences to dramatically increasing the supply of unskilled workers in the United States. That doesn't mean that they're all bad, but there are consequences, and one of them may be that it shapes the values and attitudes of our teenagers in ways that we may not like. It's just one of those things worth considering."

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