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The Lump of Labor Fallacy

The leading argument for anti-immigration in the United States has been the prospect of natives losing their jobs to said immigrants. Most commonly known as the “Lump of Labor” belief, this entrenched ideal fails to consider the numerous benefits of integrating immigrants into a nation. Founded on the assumption that there is a fixed amount of work, the Lump of Labor concept claims that when immigrants join the workforce, they obtain the finite set of jobs available. However, this is not the case. Immigrants have much to offer when it comes to their role in the economy.


The economy is analogous to a pizza. Anti-immigrants see immigrants as a cause for smaller slices of pizza, claiming that more people will mean space sacrificed for newcomers to fit into the rigid economic system. Yet, in reality, the pizza of the economy expands over time. The nature of the workplace is neither fixed nor limited. The arrival of immigrants contributes to the growth of the economy. Immigrants will not only earn an income but also spend their earnings on goods and services. When this occurs, there is an increase in demand, further allowing for growth in labor opportunities to support those goods and services. Therefore, immigrants play the role of a benefactor rather than a rival when it comes to occupations. An increase of immigrants in the workforce allows for the expansion of the entire economy, so the economic pizza enlarges when more want a slice. The economic pizza will only prosper from the integration of immigrants.


Many nativists also argue the idea that immigrants are to blame for a decrease in wages. As the economic pizza illustrated, that is not accurate for this case. The economy has enough space for everyone without anyone having to ration to make room for others. Research done on the workforce yields results that further refute the anti-immigrant claim. In 1980, the Mariel boatlift, which involved the influx of several hundred thousand Cubans entering the United States, was carefully observed by an economist of UC Berkeley, David Card. His observations revealed that the migration led to a 7 percent increase in the City of Miami’s labor supply, which did not negatively impact the wages nor the employment of native laborers.


Most economists previously claimed that immigrants would bring long-term benefits to the economy but at short-term costs. However, David Card’s research proved that integrating immigrants into the economy allows for long-term benefits without any short-term costs. The Lump of Labor argument continues to be defended by anti-immigrants; though, it is clear that this reasoning is unfounded. Admitting and embracing immigrants into the workplace will only benefit rather than burden the economy.


Works Cited


Davidson, Adam. “Debunking the Myth of the Job-Stealing Immigrant.” The New York Times, 24 Mar. 2015, www.nytimes.com/2015/03/29/magazine/debunking-the-myth-of-the-job-stealing-immigrant.html.


Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. “Countering the ‘Lump of Labor’ Fallacy: Two Lessons.” Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis Open Vault Blog, 7 Jan. 2021, www.stlouisfed.org/open-vault/2021/january/refuting-lump-labor-fallacy-two-lessons.

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