“There’s no such thing as an immigrant-only occupation,” said Steve Camarota of the Center for Immigration Studies. The PPIC study, titled “How Immigrants Affect California Employment and Wages,” analyzed 40 years of Census data and the 2004 American Community Survey, a national survey by the U.S. Census Bureau. The report comes as lawmakers continue to debate immigration reform. Looking at California is particularly insightful because the state has a higher percentage of immigrants than any other, Peri said. In 2004, workers born outside the U.S. constituted one-third of the its labor force, and the sheer numbers make any positive or negative impact even more pronounced, he said. Still, critics questioned the statistical relevance of focusing on one state, when the economy works on a national scale. “If you have a factory in California that employs a lot of immigrants, it might be in direct competition with a factory in Pittsburgh that employs a lot of natives,” Camarota said. “Looking at just one state is not effective.” SAN FRANCISCO – The flow of immigrants into California has helped increase wages and job opportunities for native-born workers, according to a study released Tuesday that challenges the long-held belief that newcomers take jobs from Americans. Immigrants don’t compete directly with native workers for jobs, but tend to bring different skills to the workplace, said the Public Policy Institute of California report. This allows native workers with the same education level to take more specialized, better-paying jobs. “The labor market is not a market of identical people,” said University of California, Davis economics professor Giovanni Peri, the study’s author. “Workers have different skills, perform different tasks, have different experiences, fill different positions.” Advocates for greater curbs on immigration criticized the study, saying the arrival of immigrants can push American-born workers of similar age and education to other states, or out of the work force altogether. The important question when considering the impact of immigration on wages and jobs is not how many foreign workers come in, Peri found, but what kinds of jobs they’re taking. His research showed the tasks performed by immigrants are different, and can complement rather than compete with the work done by native workers. For example, at the bottom of the education ladder immigrants might compete most directly with native-born workers in farm fields and construction sites. But newcomers are more likely to take positions that are more demanding and require less knowledge of English or of local business practices, Peri said.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!