Research Reveals Economic Impact of Immigration

By Kourtney Webb

The United States is home to 61 million immigrants. Most of America’s concerns with immigration centered around security, housing and job competition, and the overall effect of immigration on the economy. The personal-finance website WalletHub conducted an analysis of the economic impact of immigration state-by-state in 2017. Among the states that benefit most from immigrants was New York.

The findings are based on the highest percentage of jobs generated by immigrant-owned businesses, the highest median household income of the foreign-born population, the highest percent of foreign-born STEM workers, and the percentage of foreign-born adults with a bachelor’s degree. The analysis also looked at other contributing factors affecting states’ economies.

Joel S. Fetzer, a Professor of Political Science at Pepperdine University said in an interview with Wallet Hub that immigrants, both legal and illegal, have an overall impact on the economy that benefits the well-being of both the companies and citizens of individual states.

“If all 12 million undocumented migrants suddenly disappear, many businesses in California and elsewhere would suddenly find themselves critically short of workers,” said Fetzer. “Consumers would also experience a significant price increase in immigrant produced goods and services.”

Many people have their opinions when it comes to immigrants living and working in the United States. One of the more common is that immigrants “steal” jobs from American citizens. WalletHub analyst Jill Gonzalez said immigrants are an important part of America’s economy.

“It is a myth,” said Gonzalez. “Immigrants create new jobs much more than anything else.”

Immigrants also employ Americans, adding to workforce growth and job creation. Among the top ranked states for jobs generated by immigrant-owned businesses were Florida and New York.

“American citizens see more competition and better prices on everyday necessities from food to cars because of immigrant-owned business,” said Gonzalez.

The data collected from this analysis concluded that California, New Jersey and New York are ranked as the three states benefiting most from immigrants in their economy. Mississippi, Kentucky, and South Dakota have benefitted the least from immigration. This is because immigrants are more likely to move in order to find jobs.

According to a report by the University of California, Berkeley, immigration, as a consequence, serves to smooth out local booms and busts. Immigrants move away from declining regions and into booming areas. Immigrants’ willingness to move helps slow wage decline in stagnant regions and contributes to economic growth in booming ones.

Immigration does not only elevate the lives of those coming to the U.S., but the citizens born here. In order to advance any economy and society, technology and innovation is a must. A well-educated and diverse workforce strengthened by science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), is valuable to the United States’ competitiveness in the global economy.

STEM jobs in 2015, represented only 6.2 percent of U.S. employment, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Only 15 percent of the U.S. population make up the STEM workforce. The national science foundation reported that more immigrants are pursuing STEM education and jobs.

Companies are in such desperate need for these highly skilled workers that they are allowed to petition for an H-1B visa. This is the primary visa program to supplement the demand for workers. No states have benefited more from foreign-born STEM workers than California, New Jersey, Delaware, Massachusetts, and New York.

“Immigrants are working in all industries,” said Gonzalez. “The border wall [and other questionable executive orders related to immigration] would affect consumers and companies because the prices for immigrant-produced goods and services will rise. Business owners will have a harder time finding employees.”

Jill Gonzalez is reluctant to give  her thoughts on what might be next for immigration in the United States, and what that might mean for the economy.

“That is a question that not even the Trump administration could answer at this time,” said Gonzalez.

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