HKS Authors

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Robert W. Scrivner Research Professor of Economics and Social Policy


Employment rates fell dramatically between March and April 2020 as the initial shock of the Covid-19 pandemic reverberated through the U.S. labor market. This paper uses data from the CPS Basic Monthly Files to document that the employment decline was particularly severe for immigrants. Historically, immigrant men are more likely to work than native men. The pandemic-related labor market shock eliminated the immigrant employment advantage. After this initial precipitous drop, however, the employment recovery through June 2021 was much stronger for immigrants, and particularly for undocumented immigrants. The steep drop in immigrant employment at the start of the pandemic occurred partly because immigrants were less likely to work in jobs that could be performed remotely and suffered disproportionate employment losses as only workers with remotable skills were able to continue working from home. The stronger employment recovery of undocumented immigrants, relative to that experienced by natives or legal immigrants, is mostly explained by the fact that undocumented workers were not eligible for the generous unemployment insurance (UI) benefits offered to workers during the pandemic.


Borjas, George, and Hugh Cassidy. "The Fall and Rise of Immigrant Employment During the Covid-19 Pandemic." August 2021.