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Key Facts About Immigration and the U.S. Economy

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Immigration is a hotly debated political topic, but beyond being something often brought up in political debates and on the floor of Congress, immigration is more meaningful than that in the U.S. Immigration is an important economic issue.

Having access to both skilled and unskilled immigrant labor is necessary for large and small businesses in the U.S. However, there is a concern about what happens when there are too many foreign employees who are part of the U.S. economy, and how that can affect American workers’ wages and opportunities.

According to Remitly, in 2016 more than 13 percent of the American population was made up of immigrants. So what are the effects on the economy and what are the facts and numbers?

Types of Employment

Immigrants work across many industries and sectors. Also according to data cited by Remitly, as of 2017, more than 17 percent of the overall American workforce was made up of immigrants. Some of the areas that most heavily employee immigrants include private household employment, agriculture, food production, textile manufacturing, and hospitality-based businesses.

Foreign-born workers are also a big part of STEM fields of employment, which includes those jobs related to science, technology, engineering, and math.

Within the arena of small business, it’s estimated that immigrants are around 10 percent more likely to operate a small business as compared to Americans born in the U.S.

Education Level

Overall, immigrants do tend to be less educated than the average American, but those numbers are moving in a more positive direction. While 30 percent of adult immigrants don’t have a high school diploma compared to 10-percent of U.S.-born citizens, in 1970 only half of immigrants had a high school diploma.

Another promising piece of data is that 29 percent of immigrants have a college degree, and of the immigrants who have entered the U.S. since 2010, 48 percent have a college degree.

Economic Growth and Development

According to The Balance, immigrants have driven two-thirds of the economic growth in the U.S. since 2011, in large part because they founded 30 percent of new U.S. companies. This includes 50 percent of startups with values of more than $1 billion.

However, it’s not always positive information when it comes to looking at immigration and economic trends. For example, immigration tends to most negatively effect U.S.-born workers who don’t have a college degree, especially when they work in certain fields including construction and agriculture. In certain industries, not only can immigration mean fewer jobs for U.S-born workers, but also lower wages.

Despite the possible downsides of immigration, which are especially prevalent in certain areas of the economy, according to the ACLU, immigrants pay more than $90 billion in taxes every year, which is a significant contribution to the overall economy.

As with anything, immigration in the U.S. brings with it both pros and cons. From the economic and business perspective it is important to understand all sides of the debate and see in true numbers how immigration can affect the entire country as well as people at an individual level.

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