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Blog > Abdul At Large > Whose Job Is It Anyway? (Part 1)

Whose Job Is It Anyway? (Part 1)

(This is the first of a series of blog posts on immigration and the economy).


There’s a lot of talk these days about immigration.  Whether it’s a building a wall (that someone will just tunnel under) or it’s restricting the number of legal immigrants (i.e. future law abiding, taxpaying citizens).  For some strange reason in an era of worker shortages and record low unemployment, there’s a need to discuss whether immigrants are taking jobs from “regular” Americans.   


So with that said, I decided to do something a lot of people don’t do, it’s called do some research and get some facts.  And here’s what I found.   Immigrants are not “stealing” jobs from “regular” Americans, per se.  While that might be the narrative some folks want to push, as usual, the real story is more complicated.   If anything low-skilled immigrants and “regular” Americans tend to gravitate towards separate fields.


I base this on several studies that looked at the jobs immigrants are likely to take as well as “regular” Americans.  I focused mainly on low-skilled, high school dropouts, since conventional wisdom would dictate this is the population most likely to be impacted.


Here’s what I found according to the Urban Institute Public Policy Institute.  These are the jobs that tend to be done by immigrants workers with no high school diploma.


  1. Maids & housekeepers  - 465,000

  2. Cooks - 400,000

  3. Agriculture - 393,000

  4. Construction - 376,000

  5. Janitors & building cleaners - 369,000

  6. Ground maintenance workers - 366,000

  7. Truck drivers/sales workers - 212,000

  8. Laborers - 175,000

  9. Carpenters - 169,000

  10. Cashiers - 152,000


Now here the jobs done by “regular” Americans with no high school diploma.


  1. Cashiers - 508,000

  2. Truck drivers/sales workers - 417,000

  3. Janitors & building cleaners - 395,000

  4. Cooks - 387,000

  5. Labor, freight and stock movers - 381,000

  6. Construction - 291,000

  7. Maids & housekeepers - 268,000

  8. Grounds maintenance workers - 239,000

  9. Waiter and waitresses - 237,000

  10. Nursing, home health care workers - 227,000


By the way, there are some areas where the immigrant population is “overrepresented”.  Those fields are “manicurists (87 percent immigrant); workers who grade, sort, and classify unprocessed food and other agricultural products (82 percent); and sewing-machine operators (81 percent).”   So if you’re a high school dropout, you might want to avoid those fields.  


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