Ten Economic Facts about Immigration
The Hamilton Project believes it is important to ground the current immigration debate in an objective economic framework based on the best available evidence. In this policy memo, we explore some of the questions frequently raised around immigration in the United States and provide facts drawn from publicly available data sets and the academic literature. Most Americans agree that the current U.S. immigration system is flawed. Less clear, however, are the economic facts about immigration—the real effects that new immigrants have on wages, jobs, budgets, and the U.S. economy—facts that are essential to a constructive national debate. These facts paint a more nuanced portrait of American immigration than is portrayed in today’s debate. Recent immigrants hail from many more countries than prior immigrants; they carry with them a wide range of skills from new PhDs graduating from American universities to laborers without a high school degree. Most recent immigrants have entered the United States legally, but around 11 million unauthorized immigrants currently live and work in America; the majority of these unauthorized workers settled here more than a decade ago. Each of these immigrant groups affects the U.S. economy in varied ways that should be considered in the current debate around immigration reform. Immigrants now comprise more than 12 percent of the American population, according to recent estimates, approaching levels not seen since the early 20th century. Today’s controversies over immigration echo arguments made a century ago during the last immigration peak. While the demographics of U.S. immigrants have shifted dramatically, the concerns voiced about the social and economic impacts of immigration strike a familiar chord. A major economic concern is how immigrants influence the wages and employment prospects of U.S. workers. The economic impacts of immigration vary tremendously, depending on whether...
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