A new report from the prestigious National Academy of Sciences finds that the overall economic impact of immigration is positive for the U.S. Over the next several days, I will be looking closely at the data in this massive report. A primary focus of the study is whether immigration helps the economy grow and prosper. The simple answer is “Yes.” Here is the more complex analysis from the National Academy:
The contributions of immigrants to the labor force reduce the prices of some goods and services, which benefits consumers in a range of sectors including child care, food preparation, house cleaning and repair, and construction. Moreover, new arrivals and their descendants are a source of demand in key sectors such as housing, which benefits residential real estate markets. To the extent that immigrants flow disproportionately to where wages are rising and local labor demand is strongest, they help equalize wage growth geographically, making labor markets more efficient and reducing slack.
Importantly, immigration is integral to the nation’s economic growth. Immigration supplies workers who have helped the United States avoid the problems facing stagnant economies created by unfavorable demographics—in particular, an aging (and, in the case of Japan, a shrinking) workforce. Moreover, the infusion by high-skill immigration of human capital has boosted the nation’s capacity for innovation, entrepreneurship, and technological change. The literature on immigrants and innovation suggests that immigrants raise patenting per capita, which ultimately contributes to productivity growth. The prospects for long-run economic growth in the United States would be considerably dimmed without the contributions of high-skilled immigrants.
Interestingly, the report was made public a day early because some right-wing web sites began publishing excerpts from it that distorted the findings. The excerpts only cited passages about some problems associated with immigration and left out the broader context provided by the full report. I urge you to read the full report, which you can download for free, if you are interested in a complete view of the subject.