The Economic Impact of Local Immigration Regulation: An Empirical Analysis Academic Article uri icon


  • A wave of local anti-immigration laws has swept the country, triggering contentious debate and raising significant legal and policy issues. One critical dimension that has been largely ignored, however, is the economic impact of these laws: Are jurisdictions with them better off economically than those without them? In the first empirical study of this issue, we analyze the economic impact of local anti-immigration laws. The laws take different forms some authorize local police to enforce federal immigration laws, some restrict benefits like housing and employment to those with legal immigration status, and some require all government transactions to be conducted in English only. Applying statistical analysis to economic data from the U.S. Census Bureau, we find that such laws resulted in a 1 to 2% drop in employment, or 337 to 675 lost jobs for the average county, with payroll dropping between 0.8 and 1.9%. This drop in employment includes both authorized and unauthorized workers. We also find that the laws hurt some industries, such as the restaurant industry, while helping others, such as the grocery and liquor store industry. This suggests that affected workers may be switching jobs, rather than leaving a particular jurisdiction altogether. Because local immigration regulation has such a profound policy impact, local governments considering the efficacy of these laws need to base their decisions on empirical evidence-not assumptions-about the laws' effects. This Article provides crucial information for that decision making.

published proceedings

  • Cardozo Law Review

author list (cited authors)

  • Pham, H., & Van, P. H

complete list of authors

  • Pham, Huyen||Van, Pham Hoang

publication date

  • November 2010