Why I Didn’t Steal Your Job or Anyone Else’s

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If you’re a non-US citizen working in the United States on a visa, at some point during your stay you’ll likely be confronted about job stealing.

It’s a well-propagated and widely-held belief that immigrants steal jobs away from American citizens.  It’s completely false.  First off, nearly all economists agree that immigration is actually great for the economy.  The ones who don’t are either misquoted or wrong.  Second, there’s never been a significant enough influx of immigrants – documented or otherwise – to actually make a dent in the workforce of the United States.

If someone accuses you of stealing jobs from American citizens.  This is particularly true for H-1B visa holders because that means you’re a highly skilled worker who can be employed for high wages.  Even fairly liberal US citizens who are pro-immigration reform may feel threatened by you.  Well, they shouldn’t be.  Here is what you can say:

1) Work visa holders in the US make up less than half of one percent of the entire US workforce.  Even if the number of annual visas were to double, it would mean less than one million foreign workers in the United States, and that’s still less than 0.7% of the workforce.  No one’s job has been stolen.  That’s barely a significant percentage.

Even a significant percentage wouldn’t make a difference.  Take the Mariel boatlift in the 1980s, for example.  Miami suddenly had new 45,000 Cubans of working age overnight, increasing the labor supply by 7%.  Did unemployment skyrocket?  No.  Did wages plummet?  No.  In fact absolutely nothing happened.  The job market absorbed this massive influx of workers without skipping a beat.  No one’s job was stolen.

2) You’re actually creating more jobs.  The biggest flaw in the “job-stealing” myth is that its logic works by looking at an influx of people as an influx of commodities.  When there is a surplus of commodities in the marketplace, the demand drops and its price drops.  For example, if the market is flooded with cucumbers, the price of cucumbers will drop.  So it’s easy to map that logic onto people: more workers in the marketplace, wages and job availability drop.  There’s a big difference here between things and people: people use their income to buy things and services.  People have to put their income back into circulation by paying for food, shelter, clothing, entertainment, hobbies, transportation, education, and so forth.  That means every H-1B worker living in the United States is creating demand for landlords, shops, grocers, restaurants, hairstylists, and so forth.  That’s the way an economy grows!  More people working, more people making money, more people spending money, more serves and jobs needed to absorb the extra income.  That means more jobs and money for everyone.

Yes, that’s the exact opposite of job-stealing!

So when someone accuses you of stealing jobs from American citizens, you can say – either out loud or to yourself – “No, I’m actually creating more jobs and more money for American citizens.”

This article was written by Rebecca Little

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