Aaron Terrazas, Migration Policy Institute, July 2011, The Economic Integration of Immigrants in the United States: Long- and Short-Term Perspectives, http://www.migrationpolicy.org/pubs/EconomicIntegration.pdf
The fate of immigrants in the United States and their integration into the labor market are impossible to separate from the state of the overall US economy and the fate of all US workers. During periods of economic expansion and relative prosperity, upward economic mobility among the native born generates opportunities for immigrants to gain a foothold in the US labor market and to gradually improve their status over time. In many respects, a growing economy during the 1990s and early 2000s provided ample opportunity for immigrants — and especially their children — to gradually improve their status over time. However, the story of immigrants’ integration into the US labor force during the years leading to the recession was also mixed: In general, the foreign born had high labor force participation, but they were also more likely to occupy low-paying jobs. The most notable advances toward economic integration occur over generations, due in large part to the openness of US educational institutions to the children of immigrants and the historic lack of employment discrimination against workers with an immigrant background. In the wake of the global economic crisis, there is substantial uncertainty regarding the future trajectory of the US economy and labor market. Most forecasts suggest that the next decade will be substantially different from the past26 and it is not clear if previous trends in immigrants’ economic integration will continue. The recession, weak recovery, and prospect of prolonged stagnation as a result of continuing high public debt, could realign the economic and social forces that have historically propelled the the less-educated labor force have been dismal for decades. In some respects, the recession accelerated these trends. While the prospect of greater demand for US manufactured goods from emerging markets might slow gradual decay of the US manufacturing industry, the outlook for the industry remains weak. Steady educational gains throughout the developing world have simultaneously increased downward wage pressure on highly skilled workers who, in the past, generated substantial secondary demand for services that immigrants often provide.