Thursday, May 6, 2021
Census 2020 data implications: immigration fuels population growth
UPDATE As the census data (delayed by 5 months and counting) continues to trickle in, I'll be updating this thread on what they reveal for immigration policy and immigrants in the US.
Recent data from census 2020 shows a slow growing and aging population, which strains the population as social welfare costs exceed a tax-paying workforce. Of the two traditional means for increasing population -- encouraging families to bear more children and permitting more immigration -- Vox reports evidence that increased immigration is the more sensible policy. Demographers at various think tanks have shown that immigration fuels population growth in ways that improve the economy. Morever, the levels of immigration needed can be modelled by experts and adjusted by policymakers, if the political conditions permit. Danilo Zak, a senior policy and advocacy associate for the National Immigration Forum says:
“Immigration is one of the most feasible and rational ways to help respond to this challenge and we know that it will have a really significant impact.”
Behind this assessment is a recognition that immigrants are an important part of economic growth. The average age of newly arriving immigrants is 31, which boosts the national median by seven years and helps replenish workforce. Also immigrants work in essential industries, such as health care, transportation, construction, agriculture, and food processing, and engage in entrepreneurship.
Also, the immigrants settle in part of the US that need them. As has been historically true, immigrants are more likely to settle in large metro areas that have been gateways to prior immigration. Many of these metro areas lost population in recent years, including New York, Chicago, Detroit, and Philadelphia. Refugees are more likely to be assigned to less dense population centers, which can replenish population in rust belt and rural communities in the US that have experienced significant population loss over a longer span of time.
In order for these gains to be realized, immigrants need to succeed after arrival. Data shows that immigrants can successfully integrate. Immigrants in the US already have a higher employment rate and labor participation rate than native-born citizens. Beyond the first generation, children of immigrants tend to perform at or above the educational level of US-born children. Compared to other countries, the U.S. has a ways to go in promoting immigrant integration. While federal government efforts have been intermittent (see e.g. my book and endorsements from community groups of the newly revitalized Task Force on New Americans), states and cities have adopted a patchwork of language training, job training, and small business incubator programs to promote immigrant integration.