More Foreign Workers Means More Jobs for U.S. Citizens

As the national unemployment rate hovers around 9 percent, one way to spur job creation could be to increase the number of immigrant workers in the United States, according to a recently released American Enterprise Institute study by Madeline Zavodny, an economics professor at Agnes Scott University.

After analyzing available data, Zavodny discovered a relationship between the number of highly-educated immigrant workers in a community and elevated employment statistics for U.S. citizen workers.

Considering numbers from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, Zavodny determined that between 2000 and 2007, for every 100 foreign-born workers with a science, technology, engineering or mathematics degree from a U.S. university, 262 jobs were created for U.S.-born workers. For every 100 immigrants with advanced degrees in any field, an additional 44 jobs were generated for U.S.-born workers.

Zavodny also found that states with a higher number of immigrants possessing temporary work visas had lower average unemployment among U.S. natives.

Based on her findings, Zavodny proposed a number of immigration reform measures. She recommended lawmakers increase the number of green cards granted to highly educated immigrant workers, especially international students in STEM fields who graduate from U.S. universities. She also said it would be wise to increase the number of temporary work visas available for both skilled and less-skilled workers, given that only about 151,000 are currently granted each year.

“Changing permanent and temporary immigration policies to favor holders of advanced degrees from U.S. universities in STEM fields is an obvious step given the demand for highly skilled workers and the extensive investment the country already makes in such students,” Zavodny wrote. “Without a clear path to stay in the United States, these foreign students will fuel innovation and economic growth in countries that compete with the American economy.”

Green cards for grads” bills, which would increase the number of work visas granted to STEM graduates, have been introduced in both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. Appearing with Zavodny at an American Enterprise Institute event in Washington, D.C., on December 15, Republican Representative Tim Griffin of Arkansas said there is bi-partisan support for such a law, and he is optimistic the legislation will pass, according to the Washington Post.