2006-2007 Essay Contest

First Place Essay—Standard Economics

Immigration: A Positive Influx


Matt Gregoire
Saint Thomas Academy
Mendota Heights, Minnesota

"Immigration is actually critical," said Bernard Baumohl, the executive director of the Economic Outlook Group at Princeton. He continued, "It allows the U.S. economy to grow more rapidly without high inflation pressures."1 There are many misconceptions as to the impact of the immigrant labor force. People say that immigrants do not work as hard, they take jobs from American workers, and they lower our economy. However, immigrants do quite the opposite. The influx of the immigrant population has had many positive effects on our country, and it has broadened our economic possibilities.

As of 1990, approximately 8.5 percent of the United States population was foreign born, with an estimated 3.2 million illegal immigrants.2 With this rapid increase of immigrants, people attribute negative cultural and economic trends to them. A common assumption is that because fifty-six percent of migrants were previously unemployed, they will remain unemployed in the United States. However, slightly more than half of these immigrants obtained jobs in less than a month after arriving.3 That is just in the first month, a very high amount of them have jobs very soon after that. The immigrant labor force is statistically a very hard working group of people. Legal immigrants have an eighty-six percent rate of participation in the labor force, and illegal male immigrants have a ninety-four percent participation rate.4 In white men with less than a high-school education the participation rate is a mere forty-six percent.5 This labor force contributes greatly to the U.S. economy. Most of the immigrant workers come here for jobs. They leave their home countries, and their families to get jobs. The assumption that these workers raise our unemployment rate because they are lazy is completely erroneous. They are here specifically to work. As head of the Multilateral Investment Fund, Donald Terry says, "Latin Americans need jobs and Americans need workers."6

According to Andrew Sum, the director of labor market studies at Northeastern University in Boston, 85.5 percent of new workers are immigrants in this decade.7 Without the immigrant labor, our labor forces would have dropped three or four percent.8 Our country needs these workers just as badly as they need jobs. They fill the lower wage jobs that many native people would not fill. They do not take jobs from American natives, they simply work hard at whatever jobs they can find.

Douglas Massey of the Mexican Migration Project at Princeton University states that "there are certain sectors where foreigners enter and they complement Americans in production and don't really have any displacement or wage effects."9 People make the argument that as the level of immigration increased, so did the poverty level. However, the poverty level actually dropped from 13.1 percent to 12.4 percent between 1989 and 1999.10 The immigration levels were rising between this period but contrary to most beliefs, the poverty level was actually going down. The immigration increase had no negative effects on the poverty level. Immigrant families also experienced greater increases than native families in median family incomes between 1994 and 2000.11 In 1970 Chinese, Korean, and Japanese male immigrants earned 12 percent less than the average native-born American male, but in 1990 they earned 10 percent more.12 From these statistics it would seem that many immigrants are actually in better financial straits than the average American native. They seem to overall have a very positive effect.

The average Latin American migrant sends home three hundred dollars a month.13 This is a significant amount of money, and the workers have to earn this money. Not only do they send that much home, but they also survive in the U.S. on the remaining income. This means that the average worker makes a substantial amount of money. However that money does not all leave the United States. In fact, about ninety percent of the in Latin American income or about 460 billion dollars stays in the United States.14 There is no way that that sum of money is not beneficial to our economy. Having people turn that money over in our economy boosts businesses, and the overall economic situation of the United States.

The immigrant workers also have a positive impact on the goods we buy. Five percent of all household expenditures in the U.S. went to goods and services produced by immigrant labor.15 By having cheaper immigrant labor the benefits are twofold. First, the immigrants get a job that pays better than anything they had at home, and secondly the goods we all buy are much cheaper. If producers had to pay their laborers more money, they would in turn raise their prices, and the buyer would pay for the more expensive labor. By having cheaper labor the producer can produce more goods for less, and the lower wage is reflected on the price of the end product. John Schneider, president of MassINC, said that, "Immigrant workers have been, and will be, our state's key source of labor." 16

There is also a benefit to immigration in terms of relations with other countries. For example a Minnesota Democrat became the first Muslim congressman recently.17 Things like this will help to foster better relationships with foreign countries. If we were completely independent it wouldn't be so important, but we depend very heavily on other countries for things like oil. By having people from their home countries, it may help to build a bond between the United States and valuable trade partners.

Immigrant workers are beneficial to the United States, and we have come to a time in our nation's history where we need to welcome these advantages. As Senator Geoff Michel says about Minnesota, "Minnesota isn't going to be a bunch of Norwegians and Swedes forever, and that's OK."18 Our country is changing and there are many good reasons to welcome that. The new workers work hard, improve our economy, and take jobs that most times go unfilled. Immigrants are quite possibly the best thing for our country, and having them will only inspire growth in our nation.

Endnotes

1. Isidore, Chris. "Illegal workers: good for U.S. economy." CNN. 1 May 2006. 7 Mar. 2007.

2. "Immigration: The Demographic and Economic Facts." CATO. The CATO Institute and the National Immigration Forum. 7 Mar. 2007.

3. Bachelet, Pablo. "Migrants Sending Record Amount of Funds Back to Latin America." McClatchy Newspapers 18 Oct. 2006. SIRS Researcher. ProQuest Information and Learning. 7 Mar. 2007

4. Chavez, Linda. "The Realities of Immigration." Commentary 122.1 (July-Aug. 2006): 34-40. SIRS Researcher. ProQuest Information and Learning. 7 Mar. 2007.

5. Chavez, Linda, 34-40.

6. Bachelet, Pablo.

7. Isidore, Chris.

8. Isidore, Chris.

9. Costantini, Peter. "Union-Busting Opened Doors to Immigrant Labor." Inter Press Service 7 June 2006. SIRS Researcher. ProQuest Information and Learning. 7 Mar. 2007.

10. Chapman, Jeff, and Jared Bernstein. "Immigration and Poverty." Economic Policy Institute. Sept. 2002. 7 Mar. 2007.

11. Chapman, Jeff, and Jared Bernstein.

12. Rubenstein, Ed. "Right Data." National Review 48.20 (28 Oct. 1996): 16. InfoTrac K-12 Series. Thomson Gale. 7 Mar. 2007.

13. Bachelet, Pablo.

14. Bachelet, Pablo.

15. Chavez, Linda, 34-40.

16. Ord, Scott. "Report: Immigrants Key to Work Force." The Berkshire Eagle [Pittsfield] 1 Mar. 2007. 20th Century Drama. ProQuest Information and Learning. 7 Mar. 2007.

17. Ong, Bao. "Immigrant tuition bill in mix again." Pioneer Press [St. Paul] 28 Feb. 2007. St. Paul Pioneer Press. 8 Mar. 2007.

18. Diaz, Kevin. "First Muslim elected to Congress will share his story with the world." Pioneer Press [St. Paul] 6 Mar. 2007. St. Paul Pioneer Press. 8 Mar. 2007.

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