Two recent articles highlight flip sides of the importance of immigrants in the face of our nation’s aging population and low birth rates.
The New York Times published an article reporting that U.S. population growth is at its lowest levels since 1937. The article highlightsa study by the Economic Innovation Group finding that 80% of U.S. counties and half of U.S. states experienced declines in their working age population from 2007-2017.
The EIG study notes that 65% of counties will continue to experience these declines over the next decade, and that the decline is uneven, with 86% of counties growing more slowly than the nation as a whole. Forty-one percent of counties are experiencing demographic decline similar to Japan’s. The EIG study resulted in a proposal for a “Heartland Visa” to attract immigrant talent to areas of the country hardest hit by population declines.
In Immigrants Propel Population Growth in 10% of U.S. Counties the Wall Street Journal presents the other side of the coin, examining areas of the country that have experienced population growth. The article looks at census data and notes economists’ findings that the U.S. is becoming “increasingly dependent on immigrants to fill jobs and fund programs like Social Security and Medicare” as immigration comprised 48% U.S. population growth in FY 2018, up from 35% in FY 2011.
As the WSJ article notes:
“We have a situation where U.S. fertility rates are really low and we’re not actively adding to the workforce through natural increase,” said Aparna Mathur, a resident scholar of economic policy at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank in Washington. “We cannot afford to talk about immigrants as bad for the U.S. economy.”
Notwithstanding the data, the Administration continues to take steps to limit legal immigration, including through increased denial rates for those seeking professional working visas, and trying to terminate the legal DACA or TPS status of nearly 1.1 million people, many of whom have lived here for decades and are already part of our communities and workforce.
The administration’s direction seems misplaced when, as the New York Times article concludes, “(w)hen it comes to the economy, at least, the country looks more like one that is too empty than too full.”