10 Misconceptions About U.S. Immigration


Immigrants Take American Jobs

A Mexican immigrant arranges fruit in a convenience store in New York City. One study showed immigrants bettered the earnings of native-born Americans. Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images
A Mexican immigrant arranges fruit in a convenience store in New York City. One study showed immigrants bettered the earnings of native-born Americans. Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images

One of the more persistent misconceptions about immigration today is that immigrants are stealing jobs from Americans. Yet if you take a good look, you'll quickly see that immigrants are often working at jobs such as dishwasher, gardener, housekeeper, maid — low-paying grunt jobs, typically without benefits, that many American citizens spurn. Immigrants take these jobs because they really want to work.

A study by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine found 86 percent of first-generation male immigrants were employed, a higher rate than that of native-borns (83 percent). Even 84 percent of male immigrants without a high school education had jobs, compared with just 58 percent of native-born Americans [source: Guo].

In addition, innumerable studies soundly refute this notion of immigrants stealing jobs. A 2012 study by The Brookings Institution found immigrants actually better the earnings of native-born Americans because the two groups tend to be employed in complementary fields. For example, immigrant roofers and gardeners can help American builders and landscapers land more business and expand their companies [source: Greenstone and Looney]. And the U.S. Small Business Administration found immigrants are more entrepreneurial than natives. One in 10 immigrants is a business owner, and 620 of every 100,000 immigrants starts a business each month [source: Fairlie].

Author's Note: 10 Misconceptions About U.S. Immigration

Immigration is a loaded topic in America today, and in many other countries around the world. I don't know exactly how my great-grandparents got to America in the late 1800s/early 1900s from Eastern Europe. Nor do I know if they were greeted with open arms, suspicion or hostility. I know several of them borrowed money from family and friends to pay for a ticket in steerage, which was the cheapest way to get to America from Europe (by boat). Steerage was a pretty grim place at that point in history. People were crammed together in tight spaces. Toilets were pots and pans. Cots were lined up one next to the other, and mattresses were filled with seaweed or straw. Meals were sparse. Illness was rampant. Once they got here, they went straight to work at some pretty menial jobs. But they loved it in America. And every successive generation prospered a little bit more. I'm so grateful my ancestors were able to relocate to a country that helped them better their lives and lay a foundation for increasing prosperity for their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren (me!). Today, I hope people around the globe are given the same opportunity.

Related Articles

More Great Links


  • Anchondo, Leo. "Top 10 Myths About Immigration." (Dec. 7, 2015) http://www.immigrationpolicy.org/high-school/top-10-myths-about-immigration
  • BBC News. "Paris attacks: Bataclan third attacker identified." Dec. 9, 2015. (Dec. 9, 2015) http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-35048701
  • Camarota, Steve. "A Record-Setting Decade of Immigration: 2000-2010." Center for Immigration Studies. October 2011. (Dec. 10, 2015) http://cis.org/2000-2010-record-setting-decade-of-immigration
  • Connecting Our World. "Immigration Myths and Facts." (Dec. 7, 2015) http://www.connectingourworld.org/get-involved/what-to-expect-when-youre-expecting-a-discussion-on-immigration/
  • Department of Homeland Security. "Estimates of the Unauthorized Immigrant Population Residing in the United States: January 2012." March 2013. (Dec. 9, 2015) http://www.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/publications/ois_ill_pe_2012_2.pdf
  • Diamond, Jeremy. "Entering the U.S. as refugees would be the hardest way for would-be terrorists." CNN. Nov. 20, 2015. (Dec. 9, 2015) http://www.cnn.com/2015/11/20/politics/paris-attack-refugee-visa-waiver/
  • Dwyer, Devin. "Immigrant Couples Face Scrutiny in Bid to Root Out Sham Marriages." ABC News. Aug. 2, 2010. (Dec. 11, 2015) http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/immigration-green-card-marriage-young-couple-faces-feds/story?id=10738962
  • Equal Rights Center. "10 Harmful Misconceptions About Immigration." August 2008. (Dec. 7, 2015) http://www.equalrightscenter.org/site/DocServer/REPORT_FINAL_WEB_7.pdf?docID=151
  • Fairlie, Robert. "Immigrant Entrepreneurs and Small Business Owners and Their Access to Financial Capital." U.S. Small Business Administration. May 2012. (Dec. 10, 2015) https://www.sba.gov/content/immigrant-entrepreneurs-and-small-business-owners-and-their-access-financial-capital
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation. "Crime in the United States." 2012. (Dec. 10, 2015) https://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2012/crime-in-the-u.s.-2012/tables/1tabledatadecoverviewpdf/table_1_crime_in_the_united_states_by_volume_and_rate_per_100000_inhabitants_1993-2012.xls
  • Foner, Eric and John Garraty. "Gentleman's Agreement." History. 1991. (Dec. 11, 2015) http://www.history.com/topics/gentlemens-agreement
  • Goldman, Dana, and James Smith and Neeraj Sood. "The Public Spends Little to Provide Health Care for Undocumented Immigrants." RAND Corporation. 2006. (Dec. 9, 2015) http://www.rand.org/pubs/research_briefs/RB9230/index1.html
  • Gonzalez-Barrera, Ana and Jens Manuel Krogstad. "What we know about illegal immigration from Mexico." Pew Research Center. Nov. 20, 2015. (Dec. 10, 2015) http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/11/20/what-we-know-about-illegal-immigration-from-mexico/
  • Greenstone, Michael and Adam Looney. "What Immigration Means For U.S. Employment and Wages." The Brookings Institution. May 4, 2012. (Dec. 10, 2015) http://www.brookings.edu/blogs/jobs/posts/2012/05/04-jobs-greenstone-looney
  • Guo, Jeff. "The biggest ideas underpinning the anti-immigration movement aren't backed up by data." The Washington Post. Oct. 1, 2015. (Dec. 7, 2015) https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2015/10/01/these-common-beliefs-about-immigrants-are-all-wrong/
  • Krogstad, Jens Manuel and Jeffrey Passel. "5 facts about illegal immigration in the U.S." Pew Research Center. Nov. 19, 2015. (Dec. 10, 2015) http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/11/19/5-facts-about-illegal-immigration-in-the-u-s/
  • Monger, Randall and James Yankay. "U.S. Lawful Permanent Residents: 2013." U.S. Department of Homeland Security. May 2014. (Dec. 11, 2015) http://www.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/publications/ois_lpr_fr_2013.pdf
  • Roach, Tom. "Uncertain status: 15 myths about immigration." U.S. Catholic. (Dec. 7, 2015) http://www.uscatholic.org/culture/social-justice/2010/08/uncertain-status-15-myths-about-immigration
  • Rumbaut, Rubén and Walter Ewing. "The Myth of Immigrant Criminality and the Paradox of Assimilation: Incarceration Rates Among Native and Foreign-born Men." Immigration Policy Center. 2007. (Dec. 10, 2015) https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2015/10/01/these-common-beliefs-about-immigrants-are-all-wrong/
  • Santana, Maria. "5 immigration myths debunked." CNN. Nov. 20, 2014. (Dec. 7, 2015) http://money.cnn.com/2014/11/20/news/economy/immigration-myths/
  • Teaching Tolerance. "10 Myths About Immigration." 2010. (Dec. 7, 2015) http://www.tolerance.org/immigration-myths
  • The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. "Report Finds Immigrants Come to Resemble Native-Born Americans Over Time, But Integration Not Always Linked to Greater Well-Being for Immigrants." Sept. 21, 2015. (Dec. 10, 2015) http://www8.nationalacademies.org/onpinews/newsitem.aspx?RecordID=21746
  • U.S. Department of State. "Annual Report of Immigrant Visa Applicants in the Family-sponsored and Employment-based preferences Registered at the National Visa Center as of November 1, 2014." Nov. 1, 2014. (Dec. 10, 2015) http://travel.state.gov/content/dam/visas/Statistics/Immigrant-Statistics/WaitingListItem.pdf
  • U.S. Department of State. "Milestones: 1921-1936." Oct. 31, 2013. (Dec. 11, 2015) https://history.state.gov/milestones/1921-1936/immigration-act
  • U.S. Department of State. "Visa Waiver Program." (Dec. 9, 2015) http://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/visit/visa-waiver-program.html
  • U.S. History. "38c. The Rush of Immigrants." (Dec. 11, 2015) http://www.ushistory.org/us/38c.asp
  • Zong, Jie and Jeanne Batalova. "Frequently Requested Statistics on Immigrants and Immigration in the United States." Migration Policy Institute. Feb. 26, 2015. (Dec. 10, 2015) http://www.migrationpolicy.org/article/frequently-requested-statistics-immigrants-and-immigration-united-states#Unauthorized Immigration


How the Census Works

How the Census Works

The U.S. census is a huge project bent on counting every U.S. resident. Find out about the changes for the 2020 census with HowStuffWorks.