Testing Attestations: U.S. Unemployment and Immigrant Work Authorizations

Source: Ben A. Rissing and Emilio J. Castilla, ILR Review, Vol 69 no. 5, October 2016
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From the abstract:
Each year, hundreds of thousands of immigrants seek legal employment in the United States. Similar to many developed countries, the United States has established immigration policies to protect its citizens’ employment. This study empirically assesses, for the first time, the relationship between U.S. workers’ unemployment rates and immigrant work authorization outcomes, as determined by one key U.S. immigration program—the labor certification process. This program explicitly requires that no willing and qualified U.S. worker be available for the job position offered to a foreign worker. Through the analysis of 40 months of labor certification requests evaluated by U.S. Department of Labor agents, the authors find that, ironically, immigrant labor certification approvals are more likely when the quantity of unemployed U.S. workers within an occupation is high, ceteris paribus. Further, because of the U.S. government’s procedure of auditing applications, the authors are able to assess approval differences when government agents reach similar labor certification decisions using 1) employers’ accounts of their own compliance (e.g., “attestations”) or 2) supporting documentation collected when employers are audited. Only for evaluations of audited applications, in support of the literature on accounts and regulation, are approvals less likely when unemployment is high. The authors conclude by discussing the implications of their findings for theories and policies concerning labor market regulation, immigration, and employment.