Many commentators and media reports have called for more immigration to make up for the slowdown in new arrivals that occurred during the pandemic. Immigrant workers are supposedly “missing” from the job market, creating a labor “shortage.”

In reality, the latest data shows that the number of immigrant workers is well above pre-pandemic levels. To the extent that workers are “missing,” it is due to the decadeslong decline in the labor force participation rate — the share working or looking for work — of the U.S.-born. The decline is especially pronounced among less-educated men. This situation deprives the economy of workers and contributes to a host of social problems.

Of course, most working-age people not in the labor force are out of it for a good reason, including caring for children or attending school, but the long-term decline has little to do with such responsibilities. The falloff in labor force participation is associated with numerous undesirable outcomes such as substance abuse, welfare dependency, mental health issues, crime, family formation and early death.

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