July 31, 2017

The Economy Needs Immigrants

Daniel Griswold

Senior Research Fellow
Summary

President Trump shouldn't curb legal immigration if he wants America to grow and prosper.

President Donald Trump has promised to snap the United States out of its slow growth doldrums by adopting policies to raise the nation's growth to 3 percent or more. But that worthy goal will be more difficult to achieve if he takes the advice of some of his supporters to sharply curb legal immigration to the United States.

America needs immigrants to grow and prosper, especially highly-skilled immigrants who fuel innovation and spur higher productivity gains across the economy.

Immigrants boost the nation's economic growth rate in two important ways: by increasing the total number of workers employed, and by raising the overall productivity of workers, both immigrant and native born alike.

Without a healthy inflow of immigrants, the U.S. labor force would soon begin to decline, imposing a drag on growth while adding to the strain on our retirement programs. Annual growth of the labor force has slowed from 1.2 percent in the 1990s to 0.5 percent in the current decade. And with the number of native-born Americans of working age on a path to decline by 8 million between now and 2035, according to the Pew Research Center, we need immigrant workers and their children to maintain our economic growth into the future.

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