2006-2007 Essay Contest

Second Place Essay—Standard Economics

California: The Key to Observe the Positive Effect of Immigration on the U.S. Economy


Kenneth Lawrence
Saint Thomas Academy
Mendota Heights, Minnesota

Avtar Arora is a legal resident of the United States living in Arizona who wants one thing: his son.1 But the United States immigration system has kept Avtar and his 32 year old son Gautam apart for nearly eight years, not giving Gautam permission to enter the United States.2 Gautam is one of 615,000 foreigners with relatives living in the U.S. awaiting approval for a Green Card.3 Why doesn't the United States allow these people to immigrate to live with their families? Many people say it is good we are not allowing these people in because having an excessive number of immigrants is bad for the United States economy. But Gautam should become a legal U.S. citizen because immigrants like him benefit the U.S. economy.

In order to obtain a better understanding of how immigration benefits the United States, one can gain insight by taking a look at the most populous state in the United States: California. California's eight million immigrants make up one-third of the immigrants in the entire U.S.4 Looking at the effects immigration has on California will provide insights on the effects immigration would have on the entire United States. Contrary to most beliefs, immigrants raise wages for most native-born Californians.5 Economist Giovanni Peri finds that workers with at least a high school diploma saw a wage increase ranging from three percent to seven percent between 1990 and 2004.6 In addition to wage increases, the creation of jobs went up 16 percent in the 1980's, two percent of which can be attributed to immigration.7 Immigrants provide cheap labor for jobs in industries such as agriculture and construction.8 Providing labor for these industries allows companies to expand jobs in management and training. It "frees up" better paying jobs for most native workers.9

The only native workers that are hurt by immigrants are low-skilled natives. But the education level of natives has improved significantly since 1970, more rapidly than the immigrants.10 So the percentage of native workers without a high school diploma is getting so low that without immigrants, we wouldn't have enough people willing to fill these low-end jobs. One major product, for example, that California produces is fruit.11 If we did not have immigrants, literally thousands of tons of fruit would be wasted because they could not be harvested off the trees.12 Not enough native born people are willing to go to work every day to pick fruit. This would cause the price of fruit to go up significantly throughout the Unites States, having a negative effect on the economy.

Immigrants also give businesses in California a competitive advantage.13 The employers' ability to pay immigrants less than native workers, coupled with the fact that there is no indication that immigration labor is no less productive than native labor, gives businesses this advantage.14 So the company can expand and grow more easily by saving money this way. The overall analysis suggests that the arrival of immigrants in an industry is positively associated with growth.15

Seeing the positives immigration provides for California, we can obtain a better understanding of how it can positively affect the entire U.S. economy in the same way. There are many low-skilled jobs throughout the country that need to be filled. From meat packing in Minnesota, to working booths at transit stations in Chicago, low-skilled jobs need to be filled in every state and can be expected to have the same positive economic effect as it did in California.16

Although cheap-labor is the problem immigration fixes in California and other parts of the United States, the previous information is not suggesting that cheap-labor is the only thing immigrants are good for. Rather, cheap-labor is just a large problem immigration is taking care of with extremely positive economic growth. Immigrants can also affect the economy in other positive ways. Immigrants are usually the best candidates for making a new life in a strange land.17 They are people who are strong-minded, brave, enterprising, and intelligent and their efforts at making a new life in America have resulted in great contributions to the United States in terms of both wealth and labor.18

The immigration legislation [Immigration Act] passed by Congress in late 1990, increased the admission of immigrants per year from about 600,000 to about 750,000, and will improve the standard of living for native-born Americans.19 Two ways they do this is by contributing to the country's technological advancement, and help provide for the nation's labor needs.20 Spurred by the potential addition of top scientific talent from all over the world, there will be a sharp increased rate of technological advance. The nation's labor needs are going to go up significantly in the next few years because of the baby bust generation.21 In 1978, when baby boomers ranged from the age of 15-32, they made up approximately 45 percent of the labor force.22 Now with 2008 vastly approaching, nearly 17 million workers will be in this age group, ready to retire in a few years.23 The baby boomers’ children, (baby bust generation), do not have enough people to cover all these jobs. Immigrants can benefit this huge loss of workers by filling these lost workers.

The benefits of immigration on the United States economy are very important. The immigrants take the jobs that most Americans do not want to take, and can help with the future technological advancement, and they will provide the nation with the much needed employees due to the job loss made by the baby boomer generation. Hopefully through California the United States will realize the value of the immigrants and the work ethic they bring to the nation as well as the positive effects they have on the economy.

Endnotes

1/ Bustos, Sergio. "Backlog Keeps Immigrants Waiting Years for Green Cards." USA Today. 27 Jan. 2005. 7 Mar. 2007.

2/ Bustos, Sergio. "Backlog Keeps Immigrants Waiting Years for Green Cards."

3/ Bustos, Sergio. "Backlog Keeps Immigrants Waiting Years for Green Cards."

4/ Camarota, Steven A. "The Impact of Immigration on California." Center for Immigration Studies. 5 Mar. 2007.

5/ Mangaiman, Jessie. "Study: Immigrants Raise Wages for Some Native-Born Californians." Mercury News 27 Feb. 2007. 4 Mar. 2007.

6/ Mangaiman, Jessie. "Study: Immigrants Raise Wages for Some Native-Born Californians."

7/ Camarota, Steven A. "The Impact of Immigration on California."

8/ Mangaiman, Jessie. "Study: Immigrants Raise Wages for Some Native-Born Californians."

9/ Mangaiman, Jessie. "Study: Immigrants Raise Wages for Some Native-Born Californians."

10/ Camarota, Steven A. "The Impact of Immigration on California."

11/ Raine, George. "Ripe Crops Languish in the Fields: It's Harvest Time in the Central Valley, But Where are the Farmworkers?" San Francisco Chronicle 18 Sept. 2005. 8 Mar. 2007.

12/ Raine, George. "Ripe Crops Languish in the Fields: It's Harvest Time in the Central Valley, But Where are the Farmworkers?"

13/ Marshall, Jonathan. "California's Immigration Problem-Increasing Income and Job Skill Gap Between Immigrants and Native-Born U.S. Residents." Find Articles. 30 May 1994. 8 Mar. 2007.

14/ Marshall, Jonathan. "California's Immigration Problem-Increasing Income and Job Skill Gap Between Immigrants and Native-Born U.S. Residents."

15/ Marshall, Jonathan. "California's Immigration Problem-Increasing Income and Job Skill Gap Between Immigrants and Native-Born U.S. Residents."

16/ Talhelm, Jennifer. "230 Arrested in Tuesday's Worthington Raid." St. Paul Pioneer Press 13 Dec. 2006. 8 Mar. 2007.

17/ Nichols, Thomas L. Immigrants Do Not Endanger America. New York: Bonnie Szumski, 2004.

18/ Nichols, Thomas L, 36.

19/ "Immigration Act of 1990." Answers.com. 7 Mar. 2007.

20/ Simon, Julian L. Immigration Policy. San Diego: David Bender, 1995.

21/ Simon, Julian L, 56.

22/ Dohm, Arlene. "Gauging the Labor Force Effects of Retiring Baby-Boomers." Monthly Labor Review Online. July 2000. 7 Mar. 2007.

23/ Dohm, Arlene. "Gauging the Labor Force Effects of Retiring Baby-Boomers."

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