Aging U.S. needs to get economics right on immigration

“Immigrants – we get the job done” is one of the most famous lines from “Hamilton,” the hit Broadway musical. But the play’s creator, Lin Manuel Miranda, might well have written: “Immigrants – we keep the country young.”

The Trump administration’s move last week to end protections and benefits for young people who were brought into the United States illegally as children is a nightmare for undocumented people and so-called Dreamers.

But the immigration crackdown also adds to the challenges the United States faces in adjusting to an aging population.

The U.S. 65-and-over population will nearly double over the next three decades, from 48 million to 88 million by 2050, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That will make us a much older country – 21 percent will be over age 65, up from 13 percent in 2010 and 10 percent in 1970.

The shift reflects the aging of the baby boom population and declining fertility rates. But the United States is aging less rapidly than most other major industrialized nations – and that is due, in part, to the influx of young immigrants and their families. We need that trend to continue – not stop – because the old and young are so interdependent.

Simply put, anti-immigrant policy reflects not only a lack of ethics, empathy and compassion – it is founded on bad economics.

That starts with Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ claim last week that illegal immigration has “denied jobs to hundreds of thousands of Americans by allowing those same jobs to go to illegal aliens.” Most mainstream economists will tell you there is no evidence that this is true.

Immigrant workers do not cause any significant decline in wages or employment for U.S.-born citizens. Immigrants and U.S.-born workers usually do not compete for the same jobs, and immigrants are not the cause of any significant decline in wages or employment for U.S.-born citizens. Rather, immigrants “complement the work of U.S. employees and increase their productivity,” according to a review of research on the topic by The Brookings Institution (brook.gs/2xRz6jf).

Meanwhile, as the country ages, the need for immigration is evident in four key areas: Social Security, caregiving, healthcare and housing. Learn more at Reuters Money.

 

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