March 11, 2014 12:24PM

E‐​Verify Does Not “Turn Off” Job Magnet

One of the main claims of E‐​Verify’ ssupporters is that it will turn off the job magnet that incentivizes unauthorized immigration. A recent Working Paper by economists Pia M. Orrenius and Madeline Zavodny casts doubt on that.

They find that E‐​Verify mandates in the states have decreased wages of likely Mexican unauthorized immigrant men by about 7.8 percent and unauthorized immigrant Mexican women by 1.2 percent. The likelihood of men being employed is not much affected by E‐​Verify but it does increase female employment and labor force participation – which makes sense in the context of making migration and employment decisions on the family level. Clearly, E‐​Verify has diminished the anticipated wage gains from illegally immigrating to the United States.

However, E‐​Verify has not turned off the job magnet. Assuming that unauthorized immigrant men and women earn the same wages, the estimated gains to coming here for the marginal Mexican immigrant is only slightly lowered. Based on gender data from Pew and comparing the wages of identical workers in Mexico and the United States, here are some back of the envelope calculations showing how E‐​Verify has affected wages for unauthorized Mexican immigrants:

Unauthorized Immigrant Workers 








Monthly Wages in U.S. (Pre‐​E‐​Verify)

$ 1,470.80

$ 1,470.80

$ 1,470.80

Monthly Wages in Mexico




Wages Multiple from Working in U.S.




Monthly Wages (Post E‐​Verify)




Wages Multiple from Working in U.S. Under E‐​Verify




Sources: Center for Global Development, Pew Hispanic Center, and Dallas Fed Working Paper

E‐​Verify lowers the wage gain for all Mexican unauthorized workers from 2.53 times as great as in Mexico to 2.4 times as great – a whopping 5 percent decrease. That’s not much to brag about considering E‐​Verify is supposed to be the lynchpin of future immigration enforcement. It’s hard to see how E‐​Verify proponents can look at this small wage effect and conclude that E‐​Verify is worth it, given the enormous array of problems and burdens caused by it. In practice, E‐​Verify does not turn off the job magnet that attracts unauthorized immigrants to our shores and will not if it is ever mandated.