migration and the labor force 3029

response obscures the measurement of poten
tially adverse immigration effects on natives
wages and employment.
A connection between native migration flows
and immigration has been noted in historical
periods such as the relationship between the
SouthNorth migration of blacks and the impo
sition and relaxation of immigration controls
(Muller & Espenshade 1985). More recently,
scholars have found that low educated natives
move out and high educated natives move in
to areas with large increases in immigrants.
The differential response provides circumstan
tial evidence that immigrants, in particular
recently arrived immigrants, are substitutes
for low educated natives and complements for
high educated natives. According to this inter
pretation, the migration response of natives is
evidence of a negative wage and employment
effect of immigrants on low educated natives
and a positive wage and employment effect
on high educated natives. There are, however,
alternative explanations for this particular
migration pattern and causality is difficult to
Anecdotal and theoretical considerations sug
gest that an influx of unskilled immigrant labor
will adversely affect unskilled native labor. One
problem with reconciling anecdotal evidence
of native job displacement with statistical esti
mates of no negative wage or employment effects
stems from a tendency of researchers to con
clude that an estimated negative relationship
between percent immigrant and native born
wages and employment in cross area analyses
means that immigrants and natives are substi
tutes, and a positive relationship indicates that
they are complements. In fact, there is no direct
evidence in these studies on the nature of the
relationship in production between immigrants
and natives. A positive or negative estimated
wage or employment effect of immigration only
suggests that to the extent this relationship is
causal there is on balance a positive or negative
immigration effect on native born employment
and wages. This is not inconsistent with the
existence of specific cases of displacement and
immigration induced wage declines. Further
more, turnovers from native labor to immigrant
labor do not necessarily constitute evidence that
displacement has taken place. Where jobs tradi
tionally filled by natives become dominated by
immigrants, case study evidence could elucidate
how this occurred and what happened to the
native workers who were formerly employed in
these jobs.
The theoretical expectation that an increase
in unskilled immigrant labor must necessarily
harm the employment and wages of native
unskilled labor comes from a tendency to think
only in terms of two types of labor skilled and
unskilled. Yet immigrants and natives are dif
ferentiated by the nature of their work and the
process by which they become employed,
trained, and promoted even within specific
unskilled occupations within specific industries.
These distinctions need to be brought into dis
cussions of the economic impacts of immigrants.
Beyond the relationship between native and
immigrant labor in the production process, the
economic effect immigration has on native
labor will depend on how immigrants affect
the demand for products produced by natives.
Immigrant consumption patterns have only
rarely been studied. Beyond the simple fact that
immigrants themselves spend money and buy
native produced products, natives incomes will
be affected by the extent to which the products
produced by immigrant and native labor are sub
stitutes or complements. If the presence of immi
grants makes one product cheaper, the demand
for complementary products will increase. There
is also interplay between immigrant/native rela
tionships in production and consumption effects:
the availability of immigrants to tend children
and clean homes allows middle class women to
work and spend money on goods and services
that may be produced by low educated natives.
These types of relationships involving con
sumption and others have yet to be theoreti
cally developed or empirically analyzed, even
though they could affect whether and how
immigrant inflows affect the wages and employ
ment of native labor. Finally, businesses may
develop or persist in response to the availabil
ity of certain types of labor that immigrant
groups provide. Industries may change their
production practices in response to immigra
tion. This too is an area that merits further

SEE ALSO: Family Migration; Feminization
of Labor Migration; Immigration; Immigration
Policy; Labor/Labor Power; Labor Markets;