System Working Paper 17-13

New Findings on the Fiscal Impact of Immigration in the United States

Pia Orrenius | Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas

Published June 13, 2017

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (2016) report on the economic and fiscal effects of immigration included the first set of comprehensive fiscal impacts published in twenty years. The estimates highlight the pivotal role of the public goods assumption. If immigrants are assigned the average cost of public goods, such as national defense and interest on the debt, then immigration’s fiscal impact is negative in both the short and long run. However, marginal cost calculations are more relevant for policy decisions, and the report shows that if immigrants are assigned the marginal cost of public goods, then the long-run fiscal impact is positive and the short-run effect is negative but very small (less negative than that of natives). Moreover, highly-educated immigrants confer large positive fiscal impacts, contributing far more in taxes than they consume in public benefits. To the extent that immigrants impose net costs, these are concentrated at the state and local level and are largely due to the costs of public schooling.

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