Jobs Americans Won't Do:

I rarely blog about immigration-related matters, because I have no expertise on the subject, and because I think this is the sort of subject that it's hard to make bottom-line conclusions about without real expertise There are lots of considerations cutting in various directions, and I have no real sense of how to estimate the magnitude of each, much less compare them.

Nonetheless, even in such matters there might be some benefit in discussing a particular factor that people are focusing on. So here's my question:

Can it possibly be right that illegal aliens are doing the "jobs Americans won't do," so that their presence is no competition for workers who are citizens?

I would have thought that, as a matter of basic economics, it makes little sense to talk about "jobs Xs won't do" (at least so long as X is a large and heterogeneous national group). Rather, there are only jobs Americans (or enough Americans) won't do for a certain amount of money. Raise the amount you're willing to pay, and more people will be willing to take that wage to do the job; at some price, that supply would be enough to satisfy the perceived demand for such workers.

Now perhaps "jobs Americans won't do" is shorthand for "jobs Americans won't do unless the wage is raised to a level at which the jobs wouldn't exist in any case, since they won't be cost-effective." (For instance, if current American citizens just won't pick fruit unless they're paid $20/hour, only currently illegal aliens are willing to pick fruit for less, and fruit picked at $20/hour in America won't be competitive with fruit imported from overseas, then it may be that no jobs in fruit-picking would realistically exist for the current American citizens.)

Yet surely this would be true only for some jobs. If getting certain jobs done without the now-illegal aliens requires raising wages, then in some situations the lack of illegal alien workers would mean the jobs would disappear. But in other situations someone will need the job done, and will just pay more -- to a current American citizen -- to get that job done.

Now it may well be that having more cheap and legal labor would be good for the average current-American-citizen worker, or even the average current-American-citizen low-wage worker. The presence of such labor might mean lower priced products for the current American citizens, and might mean more new jobs in new fields made possible by the economic efficiencies that the low-wage workers bring. It's actually pretty sensible free market economics, though free market economics that might lead to at least some results that some advocates of low-wage workers might not like, and that might be distorted by various aspects of the welfare state.

But in any case this argument is a very different argument, it seems to me, than "illegal immigrants just do the jobs Americans won't do." It's

Illegal immigrants just do the jobs Americans won't do for the same low wages that illegal immigrants will take, and it helps our economy to have the jobs done at those low wages.

Doesn't have quite the same ring, no? Or am I missing something here?