How Immigration Impacts Population and Jobs

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Posted: Feb 14, 2019 3:00 PM
How Immigration Impacts Population and Jobs

Source: Townhall Media/Ian Snively

WASHINGTON- On Feb. 14, experts on immigration policy held a press conference at the National Press Club to discuss a new report on immigration growth and its impact on the U.S. population.

The report was written by Dr. Steven Camarota, the director of research; and Karen Zeigler, a demographer at the Center for Immigration Studies. It recreates the Census Bureau’s overall population projections starting at 2017. But it modifies the projections by, “varying the level of immigration in the new Census Bureau Projections,” in order to analyze how immigration affects the number of people in the country within the working age.

Camarota was present at the conference along with Center for Immigration Studies Executive Director Mark Krikorian; Dr. Lindsay Lowell, the former director of research at the U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform and Dr. Nicholas Eberstadt, who holds the Henry Wendt Chair in Political Economy at the American Enterprise Institute.

“That’s the reason we had to do it,” Krikorian said about the report. “As opposed to the Census Bureau itself doing it because the Census Bureau doesn’t pull out the immigration parts of its calculations.”

According to the report, “While the Bureau foresees a lower level of future immigration than in its prior estimates, the projections still show that immigration (legal and illegal) will add enormously to the U.S. population. This analysis shows that, like prior projections, immigration only modestly increases the share of the population that is of working age.”

There are two factors to take away from the report. First, the findings estimate that from 2017 until 2060, net immigration will equal 46.4 million, which means that 404 million people will live in the U.S. That population will be 75 million people larger than the population calculated by the Census in 2017.

Graph via Center for Immigration Studies

“That is a population equal to roughly the population of France,” Camarota said. During the conference, he talked about what it meant to have such a large amount of people come into the U.S. One of the examples he provides is traffic.

Camarota quotes a 2004 report by Anthony Downs from the Brookings Institute titled Traffic: Why It’s Getting Worse, What Government Can Do. “The most obvious reason traffic congestion has increased everywhere is population growth,” he read. Camarota adds that the U.S. needs to spend about a trillion dollars more on infrastructure to fix the roads and bridges severely affected by the increasing population.

But the second point of this report shows that just because we’re seeing more immigration doesn’t mean that we’re getting enough workers to help pay for everything. 

“Many argue that without immigration there will not be enough workers to support the government or economy,” the report states. “Yet these projections indicate that in 2060, 59 percent of the population will be of working-age (16-64) compared to a quite similar 58 percent under the stabilization scenario.”

Graph via Center for Immigration Studies

The report said that it would take net immigration at, “five times the level projected by the Census Bureau through 2060” to maintain the worker-retiree ratio. Raising the retirement age by two years and increasing, “the share of working-age people who are actually employed,” between the ages of 16 to 64 would, “have the same impact on the share of the population who are workers as would the immigration level projected by the Census Bureau.”

Dr. Eberstadt said he did research on the trends of labor participation for American males in the past generation. He analyzed native-born men who are less educated, who don’t obtain an education above a high-school diploma or don’t even finish high school, and never marry and have kids. Their labor force participation rates, he said, are currently only at 50 percent.

“[It’s] extraordinarily low,” Eberstadt said. 

Camarota told Townhall that today, about 38 percent of American adults from ages 18 to 65 have no education beyond high-school.

“That’s a lot of Americans, and they’ve really struggled,” he said. 

On the flipside, less educated and married, or unmarried, immigrants currently have a 90 percent labor-force participation rate, which Eberstadt said is “indistinguishable” from native-born, college-educated males.

“This is a social problem in the United States,” he said. It’s a problem that explains why businesses seem more and more likely to hire an immigrant to work at a low-wage job as opposed to a native-born high-school student or graduate.

“The debate over immigration should not be whether it makes for a much larger population — it does,” the report concludes. “The debate over immigration should also not be whether it has a large impact on increasing the working-age share of the population or the ratio of workers to retirees — it does not. The key question for the public and policy-makers is what costs and benefits come with having a much larger population and a more densely settled country.”