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Economics of Immigration

Economic Progress via Legalization: Lessons from the Last Legalization Program

By Rob Paral

The data analyzed in IPC's latest Special Report, Economic Progress via Legalization, indicates that unauthorized immigrants who gained legal status in the 1980s through the legalization provisions of the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) experienced clear improvement in their socioeconomic situation.  Between 1990 and 2006, the educational attainment of IRCA immigrants increased substantially, their poverty rates fell dramatically, and their home ownership rates improved tremendously.  Moreover, their real wages rose, many of them moved into managerial positions, and the vast majority did not depend upon public assistance. The findings presented in this report support the notion that legalization of unauthorized immigrants can play a role in promoting economic growth and lessening socioeconomic disparities.  Reforming our immigration system is not an obstacle to getting our economy back on track—it is part of the solution.

Originally Published Nov. 5, 2009

Published On: Thu, Jan 31, 2013 | Download File

Back to the Future: The Impact of Legalization Then and Now

While there are many facets to an intelligent immigration reform package, one thing is clear: legalization for undocumented immigrants helps all of us.  Most economists recognize that legalization has worked in the past.  After a significant percentage of the undocumented population legalized under the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA), information on IRCA applicants was used to assess the legislation’s impact.  My own research has shown that IRCA provided immediate direct benefits by successfully turning formerly clandestine workers into higher-paid employees. Other researchers have shown that IRCA provided unexpected indirect benefits to the communities where legalized immigrants resided.  After legalization, fewer of these immigrants sent money back to their home countries, and those who sent back money sent back less.  More of their earnings were spent in their communities in the United States.  Research also showed that the legalized population became participating community members—nearly two out of five people who legalized under IRCA were U.S. citizens by 2001.

What we learned from IRCA gives us a bird’s eye view into what we can expect to happen with a new legalization program. By examining three areas of concern: work, family, and community, we can see what economic and social benefits would be derived from a legalization program in 2013.

By Sherrie A. Kossoudji, Ph.D.

Published On: Thu, Jan 31, 2013 | Download File

Strength in Diversity: The Economic and Political Power of Immigrants, Latinos, and Asians

US ThumbThe Political and Economic Power of Immigrants, Latinos, and Asians in the United States (Updated May 2014)

Download the 2013 Infographic (2010 Version)

Download the Fact Sheet (Updated 2014)

Download the Previous Fact Sheet (From 2010)

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Published On: Sat, Jan 19, 2013 | Download File

Economic Benefits of Granting Deferred Action to Unauthorized Immigrants Brought to U.S. as Youth

There are an estimated 1.4 million children and young adults in the United States who might benefit from President Obama’s announcement that the Department of Homeland Security would begin granting deferred action (and Employment Authorization Documents) to unauthorized immigrants who were brought to the United States as minors. For many of these young people, the United States is the only home they know and English is their first language. Each year, tens of thousands of them graduate from primary or secondary school, often at the top of their classes. They have the potential to be future doctors, nurses, teachers, and entrepreneurs, but their lack of legal status has prevented them from attending college or working legally. The President’s deferred action initiative will provide an opportunity for them to live up to their full potential and, in the process, make greater contributions to the U.S. economy. Read more...

Published On: Fri, Jun 22, 2012 | Download File

Bad for Business: How Anti-Immigration Legislation Drains Budgets and Damages States’ Economies

Updated 06/04/12 - This session, state legislatures are once again considering harsh immigration-control laws. These laws are intended to make everyday life so difficult for unauthorized immigrants that they will choose to “self-deport” and return to their home countries. Proponents of these laws claim that the departure of unauthorized immigrants will save states millions of dollars and create jobs for U.S citizens. However, experience from states that have passed similar anti-immigration measures shows that the opposite can occur: the impact of the laws can hinder prospects for economic growth, and the costs of implementing, defending, and enforcing these laws can force taxpayers to pay millions of dollars. Read more...

Published On: Mon, Mar 26, 2012 | Download File

The Politics of Skill: Rethinking the Value of "Low-Skilled" Immigrant Workers

By Natasha Iskander and Nichola Lowe

The political discourse surrounding the incorporation of immigrants into the U.S. labor market tends to sort immigrant workers into two broad and mutually exclusive categories: high-skilled workers who are valued by many for their contribution to economic growth, and low-skilled workers who are viewed by some as causing a glut in the U.S. labor market and thereby displacing low and middle-income native-born workers. For the most part, these categories are structured around formal education. Workers possessing a level of formal education equal or superior to the median in the United States are on one side of this divide, while workers with less formal education than that threshold are on the other. Most current proposals favor expanding immigration opportunities for those immigrants with high levels of formal education.Read more...

Published On: Thu, Mar 15, 2012 | Download File

Pew Analysis Highlights Immigrant Integration and Economic Contributions

Immigrants integrate into U.S. society over time and they contribute to the U.S. economy. These crucial yet often-overlooked facts are illustrated well by the Pew Hispanic Center’s latest statistical profile of the foreign-born population. According to Pew’s analysis of Census data, most immigrants have been here for more than a decade, and the longer they have been here, the more likely they are to have become homeowners and learned English. Moreover, growing numbers of immigrants are becoming U.S. citizens, which translates into growing political clout. The Pew data also show the degree to which immigrants fuel labor-force growth and fill valuable roles in the economy as workers in both high-skilled and less-skilled occupations. In short, immigrants are integral to the nation’s social and economic fabric. Read more...

Published On: Wed, Mar 07, 2012 | Download File

Bad for Business: How Mississippi’s Proposed Anti-Immigration Laws Will Stifle the State Economy

While proponents of harsh immigration bills in Mississippi claim that passing these laws would save the state money, experience from other states shows these immigration laws will actually cost the state millions of dollars. Implementing the laws and defending them in the courts would cost Mississippi’s taxpayers millions they can ill afford. The laws would make it more difficult for businesses to operate in the state and would deter investment. The loss of taxpayers and consumers would devastate Mississippi’s economy.  Read more...

Published On: Thu, Feb 02, 2012 | Download File

Immigrant Entrepreneurs: Creating Jobs and Strengthening the Economy

By Marcia Hohn, Ed.D.
Director, Public Education Institute at The Immigrant Learning Center, Inc.

There is widespread agreement across a number of key economic planning groups that immigrant entrepreneurs create jobs and strengthen the economy. Yet, the U.S. immigration system often forces out immigrant entrepreneurs, driving them to other countries that are competing for international talent. Although many people recognize the giants of immigrant entrepreneurship, such as Sergey Brin of Google and Pierre Omidyar of eBay, thousands of other science and technology businesses are quietly making a difference by creating almost half a million jobs for Americans and generating revenue of more than $50 billion. The depth and breadth of immigrant entrepreneurs extend across the spectrum of enterprises, including neighborhood, growth, and transnational businesses. Expansion of employment-based visas would allow companies’ access to high-potential foreign individuals who are graduates of U.S. universities. Businesses, cities, and states across the country should support changes in visa policy and work to develop partnerships with immigrant entrepreneurs to create jobs and strengthen the economy.

The report features profiles of immigrant entrepreneurs and shines a light on some of the difficulties they face. Current immigration laws make it difficult for many immigrant entrepreneurs to contribute to the nation’s growth. The report contains administrative and legislative proposals that taken together could create an atmosphere that fosters growth.Read more...

Published On: Wed, Jan 25, 2012 | Download File