World Economy

Immigrants Help Promote America’s Economy

Immigrants are hard-working, adaptable, resourceful  and innovative.Immigrants are hard-working, adaptable, resourceful  and innovative.

In a finding that should surprise no one, the National Academies of Sciences has reported that immigration makes America a more prosperous nation.

To the extent that facts matter in the political debate, the new report, “The Economic and Fiscal Consequences of Immigration,” should assuage the fears of millions of people (egged on by Donald Trump’s hateful rhetoric) that immigrants make America worse off, MarketWatch reported.

In fact, the one million people who come to this country each year to seek a better life make America a better place for (almost) all of us.

“Instinctively, we all know this. We know that the nation’s 42 million immigrants—as a group—are hard-working, adaptable, resourceful and innovative. They invent the technology that improves our lives, they pick the crops and they sweep the floors. They start new businesses, join the army and staff our hospitals. Some of them marry billionaires who want to be president.”

The positive contribution of immigrants will only become more important in the coming decades as the native-born population ages. Growth in the labor force between 2020 and 2030 will “depend completely on immigrants” and their US-born children, the study concluded.

The NAS study, which had input from academic and policy experts on all sides of the immigration question, found that immigrants and their children have a small positive impact on US economic growth, have little impact on unemployment or wages of native-born Americans and actually make the federal budget deficit smaller.

The NAS study, along with more up-to-date estimates reported by the Pew Research Center earlier this month, shows that the net flow of illegal immigrants into the United States has essentially stopped since the Great Recession, with the number of new undocumented foreigners entering the country each year offset by the number who leave. The number of illegal immigrants from Mexico is down by about 1.1 million since 2007.


Here are some major conclusions of the report, which looked at the best academic and policy research over the past 20 years to determine whether immigrants add or detract from America’s economic and fiscal health.

— “Immigration is integral to the nation’s economic growth,” the study found. In 2016, immigrants will contribute about $2 trillion to US gross domestic product.

— Immigrants and their offspring pay more in federal taxes than they receive in federal benefits over their lifetimes, but the opposite is true at the state and local government level, largely because the costs of educating the children of immigrants is higher than the increased tax revenues local governments subsequently get back.

— Disentangling the impact of immigration on wages and employment is exceedingly difficult, but the bulk of the evidence indicates that “when measured over a period of 10 years or more, the impact of immigration on the overall native wage may be small and close to zero.” Highly skilled immigrants make a more positive contribution to the economy, because they are overrepresented in innovative occupations and industries. The study found that these highly skilled immigrants likely boost per capita economic growth, helping to raise national wages and employment.

This is where the politics of immigration comes in.