Immigrant Workers in the U.S. Labor Force

Report Author: 
Brookings Institution and Partnership for a New American Economy
Original Date of Publication: 
2012 Mar

Debates about illegal immigration, border security, skill levels of workers, unemployment, job growth and competition, and entrepreneurship all rely, to some extent, on perceptions of immigrants’ role in the U.S. labor market. These views are often shaped as much by politics and emotion as by facts.  

This study analyzes the differences in both the occupations and education levels of immigrant and native-born workers in the American economy. It found that even when working the same sectors, immigrants and native-born gravitate towards different jobs. The study provides new insight into the roles of immigrants in the American workforce by providing industry-specific analysis of four low-skilled and four high-skilled sectors of the economy: accommodation, agricultural, construction, food services, healthcare, high-tech manufacturing, information technology and life science sectors.

The data shows that immigration adds to diversity of the American workforce. Immigrants are more likely than native-born Americans to be of working age and, in many of the sectors analyzed, immigrants fill different roles than native-born workers. Immigrants play especially prominent roles in eight of the 15 fields projected to create the largest number of jobs in the next decade.


Brookings Institution and Partnership for a New American Economy (2012). "Immigrant Workers in the U.S. Labor Force." Retrieved from 

Source Organization: 
The Brookings Institution