Pulling Their Weight: Report Shows Immigrants’ “Robust” Contribution to the U.S. Economy

Worker - Photo: Belvoir Army Engineers/FlickrImmigrants, both documented and undocumented, contribute to the American economy “in very close proportion to their share of the population,” in the 25 largest metro areas, says a study published Monday.

The Fiscal Policy Institute, a group studying taxes and public policy, wrote the report with funding from the 32BJ SEIU service employees union and Carnegie Corporation of New York. After looking at Census economic data from the biggest cities (which produce over half of the nation’s GDP), it found that immigrants “are responsible for 20 percent of economic output and make up 20 percent of the population.”

“Immigrants are an important part of our economy. This valuable report provides a solid basis for understanding the impact of immigration on our country’s metropolitan areas,” former Secretary of Labor Ray Marshall, part of an advisory panel to the institute’s Immigration Research Initiative, said in a press release.

According to the report,

The same basic relationship holds true, with slight variation, for each of the 25 areas, from metro Pittsburgh, where immigrants represent 3 percent of population and 4 percent of GDP, to metro Miami, where immigrants make up 37 percent of the population and 38 percent of GDP.

(The report was based on data from 2005 to 2007, before the current economic crisis started. But, according to the authors, data from 2008 show “the same basic relationship” between immigrant populations and economic output.)

At a time when conservatives and liberals are gearing up for a fight over immigration reform that could start as early as January, the report’s authors defend the notion that immigrants are a valuable part of the U.S. economy.

“Immigration and economic growth go hand in hand,” said Mike Fishman, president of 32BJ, according to the statement. “The report provides the economic information needed to bring our country’s immigration system into line with today’s economic and social realities.”

The report also draws a connection between economic growth and the arrival of more immigrants in certain cities. The Phoenix, Dallas and Houston metro areas, it claims, all had a growing proportion of foreign-born workers and “well above-average economic growth.”

“It’s easy to understand why immigration and growth are closely connected. Immigrants are drawn to areas where there are jobs, and an expanding labor market can help fuel further growth,” David Dyssegaard Kallick, director of the Immigration Research Initiative, said.

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