The Positive Impact of Immigration of America’s Workforce | Immigrants contribute to the growth of the U.S. economy in a variety of ways. They are highly productive and account for more than a third of employees in certain industries. Thanks to their geographical mobility, immigrants help local economies address worker shortages and eliminate obstacles that could otherwise hurt the economy. They also provide the necessary support to the aging U.S. population. Immigrant children have substantial upward mobility, promising future benefits to both their families, their communities, and the U.S. economy at large.
What Makes Immigrants the Driving Force of the U.S. Economy?
Immigrants Are Highly Productive in Jobs That Are Crucial to the Economy
A 2018 census report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics shows that immigrants had a 65.7% workforce participation rate, which is a bit higher compared to the 62.3% rate for natives. About 27.2 million immigrants, 63.4% of all immigrants, were holding jobs that year. That figure is higher than the 59.8% of natives that were working that year.
Foreign-born adults work in jobs that are crucial to both the local and national economy. They make up a substantial share of all workers in some industries, such as farming, forestry, fishing, hotel, construction industry workers, and health care industry workers like immigrant nurses.
Immigrants Provide Crucial Support to the Aging American Population
Foreign-born workers boost the country’s national birth rate, which has plummeted to significantly low levels among natural-born citizens. A low birth rate can result in a reduction in the workforce, a low demand in some industries like housing, and a decelerating and less productive economy. Foreign-born adults, however, can offset these adverse effects. What’s more, a low birth rate coupled with the aging baby boomers make immigrants an important ingredient in improving the ratio of employees to retirees as well as supporting baby boomers during their retirement years.
The Census Bureau estimates that by 2035, the ratio of working-age adults to every person aged 65 or above will be 2.4, lower than any previous decade on record. It also expects the number of working-age adults to hit historically low levels. An influx of younger workers now can slow down this demographic change.
Immigrants are Geographically Mobile and Help Address Worker Shortages
Various studies have demonstrated that immigrants indirectly create jobs and wages for native workers. Immigrants, for instance, have higher geographical mobility compared to their native-born counterparts. In the event of shortages in the local labor markets, an immigrant with a work visa can move across the country in search of employment opportunities. The mobile immigrant workers help their native peers fill voids that could otherwise render their jobs impractical or lower their productivity as well as wages.
Immigrants also create jobs for native-born workers. A 2010 American Community Survey shows that there were close to a million immigrant-owned businesses. In the same year, foreign-born workers made up 16 percent of the labor force. With more than 8 million undocumented workers, however, the full potential of immigrants’ entrepreneurial capabilities isn’t getting realized. Some of these undocumented individuals operate their businesses in the underground economy. Documenting these individuals will make their businesses formal and create better employment conditions for their employees. Without a foreign-born population, the number of working-age adults and employees would drop significantly.
Children of Immigrants Show Substantial Upward Mobility
Research shows that immigrant children get more education, earn more, and hold higher-paying jobs compared to their parents. In fact, a 2005 NBER study found that children born by immigrant parents with little to no education are at per or above children of natives when it comes to education. A 2015 NAS immigration study also found that second-generation members of many present-day immigrant groups meet or surpass the education level of later-generation members of native-born U.S. citizens.