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Immigration continues to be the subject of intense national debate. The more than one million immigrants arriving each year have a very significant effect on many areas of American life. The latest data collected by the Census Bureau show that the last decade was the highest in terms of immigrant arrivals in American history. New immigration plus births to immigrants added more than 22 million people to the U.S. population in the last decade, equal to 80 percent of total population growth. Immigrants and their young children (under 18) now account for more than one in five public school students, one-fourth of those in poverty, and nearly one-third of those without health insurance, creating enormous challenges for the nation’s schools, health care system, and physical infrastructure. The large share of immigrants who arrive as adults with relatively few years of schooling is the primary reason so many live in poverty, use welfare programs, or lack health insurance, not their legal status or an unwillingness to work.
Despite the fact that a large share of immigrants have few years of schooling and low incomes, most immigrants do work. In fact, the share of immigrant men holding a job is higher than that of native-born men. Moreover, the evidence examined in this report and other research makes clear that immigrants make significant progress the longer they reside in the United States. This is even true for the least educated. Unfortunately, this progress still leaves them well behind natives in most measures of socio-economic status even after they have been in the United States for decades. The share of adult immigrants who have lived in the United States for 20 years who are still in poverty or lacking health insurance is at least 50 percent higher than for adult natives. And the share of these long-time resident immigrant households using at least one welfare program is nearly twice that of native households.
At the same time that immigration policy has significantly increased the number of less-educated immigrants, there has been a dramatic deterioration in the labor market position of less-educated natives. Comparing data from the beginning of this decade shows a huge decline in the share of young and less-educated natives holding a job — from two-thirds to just under half. The decline in work among young and less-educated natives began well before the Great Recession. It is very difficult to find any evidence of a shortage of less-educated workers in the United States. Some may argue that immigrants only do jobs that Americans do not want, but an analysis by occupations shows that the vast majority of workers in almost every job are U.S.-born, including three-fourths of janitors and two-thirds of construction laborers and meat processors.
A central question for immigration policy is: Should we continue to allow in so many people with little education — increasing potential job competition for the poorest American workers and the population in need of government assistance? Setting aside the lower socio‑economic status of immigrants, no nation has ever attempted to incorporate 40 million newcomers into its society. Those concerned about population growth point to added sprawl, traffic, pollution, and overall impact on the quality of life that may come from causing so much population growth from one government policy — immigration. Supporters of population growth point to the greater opportunities for businesses, workers, and consumers that it may create. However one approaches population increase, it is clear that immigration has become the determinant factor in U.S. population growth. It is equally clear that while immigration makes the U.S. population much larger, it does not make the population significantly younger.
Whatever one’s view of immigration, it is critically important to understand that its effect on America represents a choice. Selection criteria can be altered, as can the total number of people allowed into the country legally. Moreover, the level of resources devoted to reducing illegal immigration can also be reduced or increased.
The goal of this paper has been to provide information about the impact of immigration on American society to better inform the policy discussion about what kind of immigration policy should be adopted in the future. Absent a change in policy, 12 to 15 million additional legal and illegal immigrants will likely settle in the United States in just the next 10 years. Thus, immigration’s impact will continue to grow if current trends continue.
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Show MoreThe United States has often been referred to as a global “melting pot” due to its assimilation of diverse cultures, nationalities, and ethnicities. In today’s society, this metaphor may be an understatement. Between 1990 and 2010, the number of foreign born United States residents nearly doubled from 20 million to 40 million, increasing the U.S. population from almost 250 million to 350 million people. With U.S. born children and grandchildren of immigrants, immigration contributed to half of this population growth. These immigrants, consisting of mostly Asian and Hispanic backgrounds, have drastically changed the composition of the U.S. population. In 2010, Asians and Hispanics made up 20 percent of the U.S. population, in contrast to a 6…show more content…
Without the extra work and consumption provided by immigrants, the economy of the United States would collapse. Despite the common notion that immigrants steal jobs from Americans, the 2005 Economic Report of the President shows that immigrants actually create many jobs for natives by increasing the demand for goods and services. Studies show that competition with American workers among immigrants is very minimal and limited to the unskilled labor. Therefore, these immigrants are only competing with natives who have insignificant education and occupy jobs in fields such as construction, manufacturing, landscaping, agriculture, etc. As the education level of Americans continues to increase and older workers retire, these jobs are becoming increasingly vacant. Immigrants will fill these essential jobs in the labor market, such as the unappealing low skilled jobs. Immigrants continue to strengthen local economies through their higher productivity and increased consumption (“Contributions”). Not only do immigrants provide outstanding economic contributions to the United States, but immigrants also provide increasingly important social contributions. Immigrants have essentially shown American society what it is to be “American.” American society is generally defined by the ideals of freedom, equality, justice, human dignity, and individual determination. Immigrants are exceptional representations of these principles. For example, the strong work ethic of immigrants has been