Do Immigrant Workers Help or Hurt the U.S. Economy?

by Derek Loosvelt | February 14, 2017

  • My Vault

President's Trump immigration ban has shed a lot of light on the part immigrants play and have played at U.S. companies. Most vocally, Silicon Valley firms have spoken out against the ban, noting that the technology industry is filled with immigrants, many of whom would be adversely affected under the president's ban (if it were to be reinstated).

But, setting aside fairness and justice, what's the true economic impact of immigrant workers on the U.S. economy? What do the numbers show? Do immigrants really add to the U.S.'s bottom line? Or do they result in additional costs as opposed to profits?

To find out the answer, in a recent study of the economic impact of immigrants on each U.S. state, 10 experts who teach at various universities (including UCLA, Syracuse, Texas, Trinity, and American) were asked what the numbers show. And nearly unanimously, they said that studies prove that immigrant workers are indeed an economic benefit, not a drain. Here's why:

1. "States may well have to pay more to educate immigrants' children, but economically this expense should be seen as a benefit. The kids will eventually grow up to take productive jobs, earn reasonable salaries, and pay taxes back into the states' coffers. Their teachers, presumably U.S. citizens, would also owe their jobs to immigration." 
- Joel S. Fetzer, professor of political science at Pepperdine

2. "People who come as adults to work were not educated in the U.S., nor had childhood healthcare expenses ... Basically, we are getting workers in the labor force without paying the upfront investment in their education. These workers pay income taxes, sales taxes, and property taxes like everyone else, and over a lifetime are a fiscal boon to states." 
- Idean Salehyan, associate professor of political science at the University of Texas at Dallas

3. "Immigrants contribute more in taxes than they take in benefits and services."
- Stephen Mumme, professor of political science at Colorado State

4. "While immigrants can be a drain on welfare states, they bring a benefit to the economy and states in the form of cheap labor and tax revenues, not to mention industry innovation."
- Peter O'Brien, professor of political science at Trinity

5. "Study after study demonstrates that immigrants, including those who are unauthorized, produce a new economic benefit to states and to the country at large."
- Paul Apostolidis, professor of political science at Whitman College

6. "Immigrants typically take the least skilled jobs, allowing Americans to take jobs that require more skills and move up their companies. This also helps companies be more profitable, and makes goods and services cheaper for consumers."
- Margaret Peters, assistant professor of political science at UCLA

7. "By the time an immigrant has lived in a state for long enough to receive social welfare benefits, they or someone in their family has been working, paying taxes, and consuming taxable goods for quite some time. Those are critical contributions to many states' economies."
- Elizabeth F. Cohen, assistant professor of political science at Syracuse

8. "Since undocumented migrants earn very little but are vulnerable, they do not claim taxes owed as refunds. It is a net gain."
- Brad Jones, professor of political science at UC Davis

You can read more about what these and other experts say about immigrants' impact on the economy, as well as find out which states benefit the most from immigrant workers, here.

Follow me on Twitter.

Follow Vault on Instagram.

Filed Under: Finance | Job Search | Salary & Benefits | Workplace Issues

Tags: donald trump | economics | immigration | immigration ban | international students

Close button

Get tips on interviewing, networking, resumes, and more directly to your inbox.

No Thanks

Get Our Career Newsletter

Interview, resume and job search tips emailed directly to you.