America as a whole was built on the concept of immigration. From the early days of colonists to current times, immigration has contributed diversity and growth to the melting pot we call home.
So why does this topic tend to cause such a controversy? The fact is that there are a lot of wrong assumptions made about immigration when it comes to how it affects economic growth here in the United States.
Immigration and economic growth go hand in hand. And it’s important to look at statistics about the effects of immigration when forming your thoughts about the issue.
Curious about the impact immigration has on the economy? Luckily there is a lot of research out there, and we are here to give you the facts.
Keep reading to learn 10 important stats about immigration and economic growth.
1. Immigration Levels
In 2018, it was recorded that 28% of the overall U.S. population was made up of immigrants and their children. Meaning roughly 89.4 million people that are currently living in the United States are immigrants or are children of immigrants.
The number of immigrants has been in fluctuation throughout American history. And the in-flux or out-flux of immigrants largely has to do with current policy and economic issues.
However, the current rise in immigration statistics has a lot to do with the low reproductive rates being seen in native-born citizens. The population growth of those native-born has fallen drastically since the early 2000s.
While the population rate of immigrants has continued to remain high. So when looking at the percentage of immigrants within the current U.S population, it can be easy to assume that there is a large surge in immigration.
But in reality, it is more a reflection of slower population growth among non-immigrants.
2. Population Growth and the Economy
Now the reason for this decline in native-born reproduction can be attributed to many factors. These factors include access to contraception, social norms, and the cost of having a child.
It is important to remember that steady population growth is a major factor in economic growth and financial stability.
If the elderly population begins to outweigh the working-age population it can cause a lot of problems. It becomes difficult to gain funding for programs like Medicare and Social Security.
Not to mention that economic growth goes hand in hand with a strong labor force. So in this way, the immigrant population is directly helping to keep the economy stable. And are doing so by producing a larger part of our workforce as American born citizens are not.
3. Unauthorized Immigrants
Unauthorized immigrants are a large target for a majority of the controversy seen around this topic. Only around 3% of the current U.S population are unauthorized immigrants.
Meaning that the large majority of immigrants in the U.S have either gained citizenship, live here based on green card renewal, or have work visas.
Out of the unauthorized immigrants, a large majority of them are working and paying taxes. And are receiving little public benefits due to their ineligibility.
In fact, according to the Institution on Taxation & Economic Policy, unauthorized immigrants contribute $11.6 billion a year in taxes. So even the small percentage of immigrants that are here undocumented, are contributing to the government.
4. Immigration Effects on Taxes
Speaking of taxes, it is often argued that immigrants take more from the government than they contribute. Yet, statistics show otherwise.
According to a report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, second-generation immigrants are some of the leading contributors to the financial growth of the economy.
If you think about it, more people in the workforce means more people paying taxes. Which is the main reason as to why population growth is crucial to a healthy economy.
Immigrants often come here to support their families. So they tend to work more and take less public benefits.
Actually, only about half of native-born citizens with low education join the workforce. While for immigrants with the same education level this number is around 70%.
5. Immigrant Effect on Jobs
According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, 17% of the labor force in the U.S is made up of immigrants. But this isn’t coming at the detriment to jobs for native-born Americans.
The majority of immigrants occupy jobs that Americans tend to not want. So actually the immigrant workforce is a balance to those workers native born.
Studies have shown that immigrants are more willing to work dangerous jobs or odd hours than their American counterparts. Which probably has to do with their lower education level. Since many immigrants come from a place without the same education opportunities as here in the U.S.
6. Immigrant Effects on Wages
It’s also important to look at how immigration affects the wages of non-immigrants. Especially since this is regularly debated.
It’s obvious to tell that immigration positively affects the workforce. But people often worry that they are lowering wages for non-immigrants.
It’s easy to assume this is the case since a large percentage of immigrants have lower skills than those native born, and thus may not need as much pay.
As economists have studied the general impact of immigrant workers on wages they have found little to no effect. While some studies showed a slight decrease, around 1%, for low skilled labor wage other studies showed a positive effect.
Overall it has been generally found that the effect on low skilled labor wages is very slight. But it has also been seen that there is a positive impact on wages for Americans who have a higher level of education and skill.
7. Immigrants and Education
First generation immigrants do tend to have a lower education level, around 26% don’t possess a high school degree. This is not the case for the second and third generation. And there is a large portion of first-generation immigrants who pursue higher education.
But children of immigrants actually tend to seek higher education, such as college and postgraduate, than even children of Americans.
This desire to seek higher education means that as immigrants continue to repopulate the workforce, they are also raising educated workers. Workers who can continue to make positive advancements for not only our economy but society as a whole.
8. Immigration and Economic Growth
As the number of immigrants that are a part of the workforce increases, so does the workforce itself. This leads to the economy having a higher ability to produce.
Immigrant workers actually contribute about 10% of the annual gross domestic product here in the United States. Additionally, they are also consumers so they increase the demand for goods within the country. This directly affects economic growth positively.
9. Immigration Means Innovation
As previously mentioned, immigrants tend to work in different fields than native workers. And although for a portion of immigrants, the chosen areas of work are more labor intensive this isn’t always the case.
In fact, immigrants are more likely to have advanced degrees and work in the STEM fields. Thus immigrants statistically contribute more to innovation than Americans.
They tend to produce more technology and have a higher impact in areas such as chemistry and medicine. Actually, immigrants account for half of U.S. workers with a doctorate in science and engineering.
Diversity is another contributing factor to immigrant impact on innovation.
10. Immigration and Crime
The idea that immigration leads to more crime is simply not true. Actually, it has been reported that immigrants are less likely than Americans to be arrested, incarcerated, or charged with a crime.
This even remains true when comparing immigrants and Americans for a short window of time.
Immigrants who are here on a legal basis must go through formal procedures and screenings to receive legal documentation. These individuals are often approved based on being seen as beneficial to the U.S. and having a low-crime-tendency.
When looking at illegal immigrants and their effect on crime it’s interesting to notice how legal status changes things. Unauthorized immigrants, when granted legal status, are also less likely to commit crimes.
The idea here is that by granting legal status the immigrant now has better employment options, and more to lose if a crime were to be committed. So overall immigration does not increase crime rates.
Looking at the Big Picture
While it is normal to have questions about immigration and economic growth, it’s always important to look at the facts. When considering all the different things listed above it’s clear to see that immigration has a very positive effect on the economy.
From offsetting a shrinking native-born workforce, to producing more goods, and increasing innovation, immigration is one of the many things that makes America such a great place.
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