Study: Influx of immigrants is overall boost to U.S. workers, economy

WASHINGTON – Immigration has risen sharply over the past 20 years and immigrants have accounted for a larger portion of the workforce in that time, but that competition is actually helping Americans in the long run, a new report says.

The report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine found that immigrant workers in the U.S. – both legal and illegal – have the effect of increasing both wages and jobs for educated native-born workers over a decade or more.

The report, Economic and Fiscal Consequences of Immigration, also found immigrant workers reduce the prices of goods and services in specific industries, including childcare, food preparation and construction.

“Immigration is integral to the nation’s economic growth,” said the 509-page report. “The inflow of labor supply has helped the United States avoid the problems facing other economies that have stagnated as a result of unfavorable demographics, particularly the effects of an aging workforce and reduced consumption by older residents.”

While immigrants benefit the economy in the long run, the report did find that there is a short-term cost. First-generation immigrants tend to be more costly to local governments, because they pay fewer taxes, are less educated and earn less. But their children get better educations and grow up to get better jobs, allowing them to contribute more to the economy and make up for the first generation.

The federal economy, meanwhile, benefits from first-generation immigrants because they pay taxes and utilize few federal benefits, such as Social Security and Medicare, since they tend to be younger.

The report estimated that there were a total of 42.3 million immigrants in the U.S. in 2014, up from 24.5 million in 1995.

James Garcia with Promise Arizona said immigrants are entering and filling low-skilled jobs, which leads to an expanded economy overall.

By Jessica Suerth for Cronkite News
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