ditor's note: this article was originally published on November 7, 2016, and is reprinted from Cato at Liberty)
The economic plight of low-skilled workers has received considerable attention during the presidential campaign. The problem is older than the primary season, however, as the share of prime-age U.S. workers without a high school degree with jobs has been declining for decades. Yet, at the same time, low-skilled immigrant men have been unaffected by this trend. While some commentators have attempted to blame the failure of native-born men to work on immigrants, the evidence points to other causes.
This post will expand on the lessons from Nicholas Eberstadt's wonderful new book, Men Without Work, to give five reasons why low-skilled men who have immigrated to the United States tend to work more often than similarly educated men who were born here.
Figure 1 (below) highlights the problem. For as far back as we have data, immigrant men without high school degrees in their prime years (25-54) have held jobs far more often than similar native-born men. Moreover, the gap in employment between the average low-skilled immigrant man and the similar native-born man is growing. In 1995, there was an 18 percentage point difference in the employment rates of the two groups. By 2014, the difference was 31 points.