It’s Not Your Imagination, Your Paycheck Actually is Getting Smaller

A new study by the National Employment Law Project (NELP) confirms what you probably already know: Wages in this country are not keeping pace with increases in the cost of living for just about all workers. Across the board, wage earners experienced significant income declines between 2009 and 2014, a period which includes both the recession and the so-called recovery. The lowest wage workers – those in the bottom 20 percent of earners – have been hurt the most, seeing real wage declines of 4.7 percent. But even higher wage earners – those in the top 20 percent – have lost ground.

4326186183_605559723bThere are many factors that contribute to the downward mobility of American workers. But NELP manages to overlook immigration as one of them. According to a 2014 report by the Center for Immigration Studies, all employment growth in the U.S. since 2000 has gone to immigrant workers. Over the same period the percentage of working age Americans who are not participating in the labor force grew steadily.

The impact of immigration can be clearly seen in the report’s list of occupations where wage erosion has been the steepest. Workers holding service industry jobs that attract large numbers of immigrant workers have taken the biggest hits on their incomes since 2009. Even higher-skilled workers, like nurses, who compete directly with immigrant workers experienced significant wage declines.

Economists may disagree about the relative weight to attribute to the various factors that are cutting into the wages of workers in this country. But there should be little doubt that we ought to be reducing the influx of immigrant labor while American wages are in freefall.

Of course common sense rarely factors into immigration policy.

About Author


Ira joined the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) in 1986 with experience as a journalist, professor of journalism, special assistant to Gov. Richard Lamm (Colorado), and press secretary of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. His columns have appeared in National Review, LA Times, NY Times, Washington Post, Newsweek, and more. He is an experienced TV and radio commentator.


  1. avatar

    The attack on the middle class has three prongs:

    1. NAFTA and China Trade agreements have offshored over 5 million mid-level jobs by US companies to be reimported duty free. Why Apple is an American company makes no sense when 5% of engineering jobs are in CA while 95% of labor jobs is done in China, where wages are $3 per hour instead of $15.

    2. Huge influx of easily exploitable illegal labor with no protection on wages or working conditions. Illegals can hardly file with the Dept of Labor as they are illegal and would be deported before the months it takes for a hearing. Only about 10% American business participate in e-verify for obvious reasons.

    3. Investment Tax Credits, which are dollar for dollar off income tax bills, allow corps to buy robots to replace even more workers with money they would have paid in taxes.

    All of this is government policy.

  2. avatar

    Maybe they did not include immigration issues in this report because they are not the issue. Immigrants do the grunt work that no Americans want to do. Maybe it is the fact that CEOs are grossly over paid and don’t pay taxes….I bet none of you would do an undocumented immigrants work AND it is wealthy individuals contractors that hire them! So much easier to pick on the small guy. Who do you think is hiring these immigrants for grossly lower wages? Would any of you pick watermelons for 12 hours a day/ sic days a week for 5.15/hour? Doubt it.

    Be informed.

    • avatar

      Take your own advice and inform yourself. There are plenty of American workers who have been put out of work by immigrants working for cheap wages that Americans can’t support a family on. Construction workers, restaurant workers, the list is endless.

      • avatar

        Leland & SW beinformed is to totally wrong the asme as you both. There is truth to the three of you actually

    • avatar

      Before We Assume Anything You Blog Makes Sense

      Give a list of jobs Americans won’t do that IAs do. Also provide the pay the IAs get vs. the pay legal citizens would have gotten. This should refute your unfounded allegations.

      Working for lower pay doesn’t make you a Saint, it makes you a chump.

    • avatar

      it’s a crime for employers to hire illegal aliens. ICE should arrest both the illegal aliens / the employers for violating the rule of law, the immigration laws. the POTUS is the only one who can deport illegal aliens, and arrest / hand hefty fines to employers hiring illegal aliens. the sitting POTUS for decades, the worst is obama, none of them have diligently, and well focus to perform their jobs of deporting illegal aliens / arresting, handing hefty fines to employers hiring illegal aliens, after the 80′ reagan amnesty. the result is the out of control accumulation of 30-50M illegal aliens. the illegal aliens are the mess, that need to be cleaned up. the argument of americans will not do the jobs illegal aliens do are all propaganda ever since, and the populous have been brainwashed to believe the fattest lies of all time. american should think back during the time the illegal aliens problem was well controlled under prez hoover, truman, and eisenhower. these three three prez deported millions of illegal aliens, the outcome was plentiful jobs for all americans. the talk of impossible to deport the millions illegal aliens, simply because the past / present sitting prez did not do their proper job of deporting illegal aliens are nothing but the undying current propaganda, that people even politicians do believed, just not to be bothered / don’t know how to work a plan of order to fix the disorder of illegal aliens, until trump blatantly, without hesitations identifying the chaos illegal aliens have done to the USA.

      • avatar

        beer your Trump is also you hate material…..illegal and immigrants…..his mom & grand came out of the boat…….you have double standards

    • avatar

      If the top wage earners don’t pay taxes, how is it that the top 20% of earners pay 70% of ALL taxes each and every year. Stop spreading your progressive one liners and you “Get informed”.
      [email protected]

    • avatar

      Neerg you don’t have a clue what you are talking about. In 1973 was in charge of a commercial building project. At that time construction workers were making $20 and hour, today that same job pays $10 an hour. Of course there are jobs Americans won’t do anymore as if you had a job that paid $20 an hour in 1973 and today paid $10 an hour would you still be on the same job, don’t think so. During the construction bust Arizona lost 183,000 jobs and it didn’t change out unemployment figures and even one newscaster said that was because almost all the workers were illegals. They are the major reason wages have not only stayed low but also like I pointed out brought wages down. We probably have 30 million illegals here now and if they were really working in the fields there wouldn’t be standing room for that many. Before the great surge of illegals who do you think did all this work, Americans of course. Now with the high payment of welfare they don’t have to and that is the other part of it.

    • avatar

      You are the one that knows nothing ! I know roofers that are out of work because they well not work as cheap as the illegals , Illegals are taking jobs in warehousing driving forklifts , in pipe yards loading pipe using ten ton forklifts , They are running bulldozers , paving machines , and doing general labor on highway building here in Texas , Moet of these jobs well not hire a American worker Black or white if they can not speak Spanish , How do I know ? I am a trucker , I go into theses job sites , So don’t try to lay that line about them only doing farm work on us , Go to any fast food burger joint you well see 40 year olds working that can’t speak English taking jobs that teenagers fresh out of school use to get , Hell even in the Chinese restaurants Mexicans are working in the kitchens ,

    • avatar

      12 million American workers out of work and you are telling me that not one of these unemployed workers will do the job that an illegal immigrant does. It is called crooked politicians and greedy corporations at the expense of tax payers. Wake up and don’t be a sell out.

  3. avatar

    This Downward Spiral of Wages is Directly Related to Growing Overpopulation in America

    And we need more immigrants? Like a blazing fire needs gasoline to put it out.