Immigrants and the Economy

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Immigration is an emotionally charged topic that can turn even the friendliest of conversations into fierce debates. People have widely varying opinions on the subject, often based on their own experiences and what they see in the news or from friends and neighbors.

Immigrants have a powerful impact on their host communities and the economy. Their contributions range from providing hardworking labor to filling essential occupations and bolstering industries that are vital to the nation’s health, safety, and well-being. They also play a role in shaping the country’s cultural diversity and identity, contributing to food, music, art, and beliefs.

In 2019, households headed by DACA recipients and those meeting the eligibility requirements for DACA paid an estimated $3.4 billion in federal, state, and local taxes — after-tax income equivalent to about one-fifth of the total income of such households. In addition, immigrants who are self-employed contribute tens of billions of dollars in business revenue, making up 22 percent of all U.S. entrepreneurs. As a result, they help the nation’s businesses thrive and create jobs for Americans in many different sectors of the economy.

They also help keep the population young, counteracting the decline in the birthrate that has been seen in recent decades among native-born residents. This has been especially important in the United States, which is aging faster than any other nation. It has also helped the country recover from recessions, as a younger population means that there are more consumers to buy goods and services.

Moreover, immigrants provide valuable public-service jobs by delivering education and healthcare, policing neighborhoods, and maintaining our infrastructure. They are a large share of the agricultural workforce, and of those working in construction and other physically demanding jobs. They also fill a number of professional roles, including those in computer and math sciences and health care professions, where shortages would otherwise exist.

Overall, a majority of immigrants say their financial situation and quality of life is better now than it was in their country of origin. They are also more likely to say they would choose to move to the United States again, indicating that they believe their children have good opportunities here. In many urban areas, immigration has been a key factor in revitalizing deteriorating neighborhoods.

Multiculturalism can bring both economic and social benefits, but it can also lead to frictions between the people of a country. Some may fear that immigration is threatening their culture, bringing in “languages that nobody in this country has ever heard of,” or that it is “poisoning the blood of our country.” In such cases, policies that limit immigration could lead to greater discord and division in society. This is why it is so important to recognize and support the contributions of all immigrants, regardless of their legal status. Amid this national conversation, we hope this survey will be a helpful tool to understand and communicate the value of immigrant contributions. We thank you for your participation.