The Costs of Immigration to Taxpayers: Analytical and Policy Issues

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At the same time, at the higher end, recent immigrants are more likely to have completed college and hold advanced degrees than their native counterparts. Percent Share of total Foreign-born share of total Foreign-born share of education group High school or less Despite these increases in labor supply, in many cases immigrants appear to complement American-born workers rather than replacing them. Because less-educated immigrants often lack the linguistic skills required for many jobs, they tend to take jobs in manual labor-intensive occupations such as agriculture and construction.


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Even for low-skilled native-born workers in these industries, the effects of increased competition from immigrants are ambiguous, as many take advantage of their superior communication abilities and shift into occupations where these skills are more valuable, such as personal services and sales.

Highly skilled natives in management, media, and other culture- and language-dependent jobs face little competition from high skilled immigrants. The inflow of foreign labor is, therefore, concentrated in a subset of occupations that tend to employ many immigrants already. Consequently, it is earlier immigrants who face the greatest increase in competitive pressure. Table 2 presents the results of two academic analyses of the wage impacts of immigration over the last several decades.

They find a small but positive effect, equal to about half a percentage point, on the average wages of native workers. One of the studies indicates a minor decline in the wages of those without a high school degree or with a college degree, while the other study finds only positive gains. In sharp contrast, both studies find that earlier immigrants experienced wage declines, on average, of 4 to 7 percent concentrated among the most and least educated.

Immigrants also bring a wave of talent and ingenuity, accounting for a disproportionate share of workers in the fields most closely tied with innovation.

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A survey of the top fifty venture capital funded companies found that half had at least one immigrant founder and three quarters had immigrants in top management or research positions. In , 76 percent of patents from top 10 U. Moreover, states with a high concentration of foreign-born workers experience significantly faster productivity growth. This greater specialization leads to a more efficient allocation of labor, raising the incomes and productivity of both natives and immigrants.

Immigrants in general — whether documented or undocumented — are net positive contributors to the federal budget. However, the fiscal impact varies widely at the state and local levels and is contingent on the characteristics of the immigrant population — age, education, and skill level — living within each state. Figure 3 shows that immigrants, and especially recent arrivals, are generally of working age; thus, they impose relatively small costs on Social Security and Medicare — the largest components of federal non-defense spending.

More often than not, immigrants are less educated and their incomes are lower at all ages than those of natives.

The Effects of Immigration on the United States’ Economy

As a result, immigrants pay less in federal, state, and local taxes and use federally-funded entitlement programs such as Medicaid, SNAP, and other benefits at higher rates than natives. But they are also less likely than comparably low income natives to receive public assistance. Moreover, when they do take public assistance, the average value of benefits received is below average, implying a smaller net cost to the federal government relative to a comparable low income native.

However, immigrants often impose a heavier tax burden on natives at the state and local level. Immigrants — particularly those with low levels of education and income — generally have larger families and more children using public K education, the largest component of state and local budgets.

Over the long term, however, the upward economic mobility and taxpaying lifetime of second generation immigrants more than offset the initial fiscal burden. For example, because New Jersey has a high proportion of well-educated and high income immigrants who contribute more to state and local revenues than they consume in public services, the net fiscal burden of immigration is small in New Jersey.

As a result, the estimated fiscal burden of immigration is five times higher for native residents of California than of New Jersey. Economists generally agree that the effects of immigration on the U. Indeed, the experience of the last few decades suggests that immigration may actually have significant long-term benefits for the native-born, pushing them into higher-paying occupations and raising the overall pace of innovation and productivity growth. Moreover, as baby boomers have begun moving into retirement in advanced economies around the world, immigration is helping to keep America comparatively young and reducing the burden of financing retirement benefits for a growing elderly population.

While natives bear some upfront costs for the provision of public services to immigrants and their families, the evidence suggests a net positive return on the investment over the long term.

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Despite sustained growth in the capital-labor ratio at its pre trend, wage rates might still decline if the share of labor compensation declines — as it has since the year However, the timing of the decline in labor compensation share suggests that it is driven by other changes such as changes in technology and increased globalization. Applied Economics 1, no. Harvard University Press, Fernald and Charles I. Smith and Barry Edmonston, eds.

The Effects of Immigration on the United States’ Economy — Penn Wharton Budget Model

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    Tucker: Illegal immigration is literally costing US big-time