News from EPI CIS Analysis of Immigration’s Impact on Youth Employment Omits Key Facts

The decline in employment among people aged 16-19 must be examined in relation to dramatic increases in school enrollment, according to analysis by EPI economist Heidi Shierholz.  Shierholz calls into question the conclusions of a paper to be released tomorrow by the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) that claims immigration accounts for a significant share of the decline in employment for these young people.  Shierholz details her analysis here:

A new paper by researchers at the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) claims that immigration accounts for a significant share of the decline in teen labor force participation.  A startling omission from the analysis in their paper “A Drought of Summer Jobs” is the fact that school enrollment for this group has dramatically increased, even in the summer.  This increase more than makes up for the decline in teen employment.

Figure A shows the share of teens (age 16-19) employed in the summer.  This share, as pointed out by the CIS study, has generally declined in recent decades – from 56.9% in 1989 to 39.6% in 2007 (both of these years are business cycle peaks, for appropriate comparisons).  On the other hand, Figure B shows the share of teens (age 16-19) enrolled in school in the summer.  This share increased from 19.4% in 1989 to 51.0% in 2007, a dramatic jump due to increases in both high school and, especially, college enrollment.

Figure C combines these two, showing the share of teens (age 16-19) who are not employed and not enrolled in school.  This share declined, from 32.2% in 1989 to 25.0% in 2007.  In other words, the decline in employment among teens has not led to an increase in young people who are idle; in fact, it has been more than made up by increases in school enrollment. 

Importantly, many students also need to work (see the recent EPI paper The Class of 2010).  In other words, being enrolled does not entirely insulate young people from the dynamics of the labor market.  However, excluding increased school enrollment in any discussion on the causes of reduced teen labor market involvement calls into serious question the conclusions in the CIS paper that immigration accounts for a significant decline in teen labor force participation.

FIG A 

FIG B

FIG C

The Class of 2010