An Introduction to the Predominantly Positive Effects of Immigration on the American Economy
In American society today there is currently a huge debate going on concerning immigration and whether or not it is helping or hurting the country. The issue is a divisive one, and one that causes different political, economic, and legal viewpoints. The best way to address this problem is to put aside political and legal biases and use economics as a tool to understand the effects of immigration on the economy. Contrary to widespread beliefs, recent research on immigration has made it clear that immigration has an overall positive effect on the economy. Immigrants tend to occupy lower skill level jobs, and if they do so with any type of legal status the government will benefit from a boost in tax revenue. Immigrants have been seen to overwhelmingly compliment the native workforce, not taking a large portion of jobs from Americans or causing a decrease in their pay. In addition, immigrant taxes would add funding toward health care services, therefore increasing the quality of medical services for the greater population. The young age of the immigrant population also has the additional benefit of adding solvency to social programs hurt by an aging U.S. population.
One consistent argument that opponents of immigration use is that immigrants take jobs away from Americans, but this is for the most part false. The majority of new immigrants occupy low skill level jobs that most Americans do not want. A specific example of this arose in Alabama, where a tough immigration law imposed in the summer of 2011 had the effect of driving many of the migrant farm workers from the state. “Some economists theorize that without all those undocumented immigrants, the supply of labor will dry up and businesses will have to pay more to attract new, legal workers.
Tomatoes end up costing more, but Alabama’s 10 percent employment rate goes down. But the theory isn’t working so far at Boatwright’s farm. ‘Since this law went in to effect, I’ve had a total of 11 people that were Americans come and ask for work, Boatwright says. A total of one of those actually came back the next day. Through instances like these, it is clear that strict immigration laws like the one imposed in Alabama have an adverse impact on produce production and that it is hard to find legal replacements to fill the physically difficult positions.
This is not an isolated phenomenon; all across the country wherever immigrants are prominent there is strong evidence to show that their employment is helping Americans, not hurting them. A nationwide survey conducted by the Immigration Policy Center found no correlation between immigrant populations in counties and the subsequent unemployment rate. They found that “In counties with the lowest unemployment rates (below 4.8 percent), 4.6 percent of the population is composed of recent immigrants. But in counties with the highest unemployment rates (over 13.4 percent), only 3.1 percent of the population is composed of recent immigrants.” This data infers a negative association between immigrant populations and unemployment rates, showing that they are in fact not taking jobs from Americans but rather complimenting the native labor market.
The immigration Policy Center found that between 1990 and 2004 native-born workers’ wages rose on average 1.8 percent as a direct consequence of immigration.This is a result of the simple fact that the majority of immigrants do not directly compete with natives for jobs. A majority of immigrants fall on opposite ends of the spectrum, either highly educated or with no education at all, so they compete very little with Americans in between that have roughly a high school or two year college education level. Ninety percent of Americans age 25 to 29 year-old have completed high school, so a large percentage of the population does not compete with immigrants at all. At the other end of the spectrum, immigrants with PhDs do not compete with the majority of the population, and fields such as education and health care are actually in high demand. Not only have immigrants been recorded to compliment American jobs, but also their legal presence would be essential to the United States’ system of health care.
With many immigrant labor markets unwilling to provide health care for their workers, some native U.S. citizens believe that the quality of their health care goes down as rates of immigration rise. A poll conducted in September of 2010 by Harris Interactive reports that, “The majority of those polled in the U.S…. said immigration reduced their level of health care services…”.5 Alabama’s Senator, Jeff Sessions, said that President Obama’s proposal to incorporate immigrants into U.S. health care services will be “likely to add trillions of dollars to the debt over time, accelerate Medicare’s and Social Security’s slide into insolvency, and put enormous strain on our public assistance programs.”
However, through looking at the economic benefits of officially incorporating immigrants into the health care system it is clear that medical services are improved for the general population as well as the immigrants. Not only does equal access to these services improve public health, but it also reduces costs for everyone. The Center for Science in the Public Interest concluded that, “including legal immigrants does not mean that U.S. citizens get less care. Making affordable health care available to everyone benefits everyone.”? In addition to the aforementioned evidence, demographer Dowell Myers claims that with Obama’s new immigration policies the ratio of elderly seniors to working-age adults will increase by 67% between 2010 and 2030, and by “Having more, healthy, working-age people paying into the health care system will help finance coverage for everyone.” Not only will health care quality rise and costs fall with the incorporation of immigrants, but the general economy will be improved through a higher standard of health and greater level of personal savings.
Although the debate over immigration’s impact on the economy is legitimately argued from both sides, it is fair to say that the economical evidence and research conducted on the U.S economy shows convincing results which support immigrant’s positive impact on the economy. Those who argue that immigration takes jobs away from U.S citizens and cause unemployment are disproved with statistics showing that immigrants mainly occupy jobs that American’s would not undertake either way. Additionally, areas of high immigrant population see less unemployment then areas with low immigrant populations.
In terms of healthcare, a majority of Americans have been recorded to think that immigration raises costs and lowers quality of medical services. This is also invalidated by the fact that incorporating immigrants into the health care system will provide more funding, leading to higher quality, and further spreading our costs to lower prices for everyone. Through this evidence it can be concluded that Obama’s proposals to legally incorporate immigrants into the United Stated will undoubtedly benefit the economy by complementing American jobs, increasing taxable income levels, and lowering costs of health care services for all.