Immigrants have positive effect on U.S. economy Print
Written by Mary C. Uhler   
Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019 -- 12:00 AM

Contrary to some of the anti-immigrant rhetoric we’ve been hearing these days, immigrants actually have a positive effect on the U.S. economy and society.

I checked a number of studies about the effects of immigration, and nearly all of them gave statistics showing that immigration is good for our country.

Positive effects

A study at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania reveals some of these positive  effects. It says, “Today, the United States is home to the largest immigrant population in the world. Even though immigrants assimilate faster in the United States compared to developed European nations, immigration policy has become a highly contentious issue in America.

“While much of the debate centers on cultural issues, the economic effects of immigration are clear: Economic analysis finds little support for the view that inflows of foreign labor have reduced jobs or Americans’ wages. Economic theory predictions and the bulk of academic research confirms that wages are unaffected by immigration over the long-term and that the economic effects of immigration are mostly positive for natives and for the overall economy.”

The study says that evidence suggests that immigration leads to more innovation, a better educated workforce, greater occupational specialization, better matching of skills with jobs, and higher overall economic productivity.

A popular view is that immigrants are taking jobs from American citizens. However, the study says, although immigrants increase the supply of labor, they also spend their wages on homes, food, TVs, and other goods and services and expand domestic economic demand.

In many case, immigrants appear to complement American-born workers rather than replace them. Because less-educated immigrants often lack the linguistic skills required for many jobs, they tend to take jobs in manual labor-intensive occupations such as agriculture and construction.

Moreover, as baby boomers have begun moving into retirement, immigration is helping to keep America comparatively young and reducing the burden of financing retirement benefits for a growing elderly population.

While natives bear some upfront costs for the provision of public services to immigrants and their families, the evidence suggests a net positive return on the investment over the long term.

Fixing immigration system

So how can we help immigration work for the good of our country? An opinion piece in The Washington Times by John Engler suggested that we need to fix the immigration system.

He said, “Business leaders are more united than ever on one issue: the importance of fixing America’s immigration system for the long term. The economic case to do so is powerful and clear. Passing immigration reform would provide the opportunity for Washington to show Americans that policymakers can work together to solve big problems and boost the economy at the same time.”

Engler said that immigration reform would improve economic growth. “The Bipartisan Policy Center estimates that reform would boost gross domestic product by 4.8 percent and productivity by 1.0 percent over 20 years. Reform would also increase U.S. employment and raise wages. The Congressional Budget Office projects it would add nine million workers to the labor force while slightly increasing wages over 20 years.

“This expansion would have a powerful effect on easing our massive fiscal challenges. The Bipartisan Policy Center estimates that federal deficits would decrease by almost $1.2 trillion over 20 years,” said Engler.

He added, “The story of immigration is the story of America, and America needs a system that allows people to come here and contribute their talents and skills to economic prosperity for all. Today, there is a global competition for talent, and we cannot afford to lose out to other nations.”

I hope that the president and Congress will work together to find ways to reform our immigration system, including giving permanent legal status to young people in the DACA program and a path to citizenship for military, police, and firefighter service in this country.