Skip to content
Search

Latest Stories

Top Stories

What you believe about immigration depends on who you are

Are immigrants good for the economy, and for society in general? Let’s look at the pros and cons.

People waiting in line

A U.S. Border Patrol agent checks immigrants' identification as they wait to be processed by the U.S. Border Patrol after crossing the border from Mexico.

Qian Weizhong/VCG via Getty Images

Hill was policy director for the Center for Humane Technology, co-founder of FairVote and political reform director at New America.

The last comprehensive immigration reform was enacted almost four decades ago, when Ronald Reagan was president. So many Americans were pleased when a bipartisan group of senators announced they had agreed on a compromise bill that would provide for both a more secure and more humane border. It seemed like a win-win.

But then former President Donald Trump worked behind the scenes to kill the legislation because he did not want to give a political victory to President Joe Biden. It’s not the first time that sensible immigration policy got strangled by partisan gamesmanship. Such congressional battles make it harder for the public to know what good policy even looks like.

Unfortunately many important economic questions related to immigration rarely get discussed. How does immigration actually impact our economy and nation? What are the pros and cons of having large numbers of newcomers crossing our border? After all, we are a nation of immigrants. If it wasn’t for immigration, most of us wouldn’t be here. Or, is it different this time?


Here’s the key thing to know about immigration: The reason it’s so controversial is because how it affects you greatly depends on who you are.

Sign up for The Fulcrum newsletter

Are you a business owner who needs to hire lots of blue-collar workers? If so, then immigrants from south of the border are a blessing, because they make it possible for you to employ cheaper labor. That could well be why a number of Republican business leaders in places like Texas, Arizona and California did not support Trump’s anti-immigration policies.

Are you a blue-collar worker? Then you might perceive that “hordes” of immigrants who are willing to work cheaply are threats to steal your job.

Or maybe you’re a parent with schoolchildren who has recently seen a rise in immigrant kids. Then you may worry about your taxes having to pay for a surge in teacher hiring, translation services and more.

Are you worried about escalating prices on your grocery bill? Then you might welcome more workers from across the border who will pick your food for lower wages. Most Americans aren’t willing to work at hard labor jobs like that.

Or perhaps you are an economist, worried about a declining population, worker shortages, dependency ratios and falling labor productivity. If so, then you probably welcome a certain number of new workers, especially skilled labor that can make businesses more productive.

Are you the CEO of a tech company? Then you favor the H1-B visa laws that allow migrants from places like India and China to fill jobs for computer programmers and software designers. Those imported workers come cheaper than Americans yet have top-notch skills for creating great products, like your smartphone and apps.

Or maybe you are a politician, looking to get reelected? Then you might be tempted to bash immigrants and attack political opponents as “soft on immigration” as a way to score points with voters.

The point is, what you believe about immigration is very dependent on where you sit. Many people fit in two or more of the boxes mentioned above, making matters complicated and personal. Consequently, the economic impacts of immigration often are colored by larger cultural and political concerns.

What do economic studies say?

Study after study clearly shows that large increases in immigration have a tendency to lower wages in the mostly blue-collar jobs where those immigrants work. But – the effect usually is temporary, according to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

Over the longer term, new workers provide employers with opportunities to expand their businesses, increase production and add jobs to service new customers. Immigration actually “grows the economic pie” over time, and most of the negative wage or employment impacts fade away. Moreover, according to the Brookings Institution, immigrants usually work different jobs than native-born workers, which often results in lower prices for widely enjoyed services like child care, food preparation, house cleaning and construction.

Here are some other things about immigration that many people don’t know:

  • Immigrants accounted for a high share of essential front-line workers during the pandemic, according to the congressional Joint Economic Committee. They placed themselves at great risk for contracting Covid-19, with some doing dangerous jobs like working at meatpacking plants during a challenging time for the nation.
  • Immigrants play an increasingly important role filling a jobs gap in the health care industry. Nearly 2.8 million immigrants were health care workers in 2021, accounting for more than 18 percent of that industry’s workforce. Millions of them fill critical roles for physicians and surgeons (26 percent), registered nurses, dentists, pharmacists, dental hygienists and home health aides (almost 40 percent). Nearly half of new immigrants have college degrees.
  • Over time, immigrants pay more in taxes than they receive in services. First-generation immigrants are more costly than native-born Americans, mainly at the state and local levels, mostly due to the costs of educating their children. But that investment shows extremely favorable returns. Many children of immigrants (the second generation) go on to achieve higher education and elevated incomes, eventually contributing more in taxes than native born Americans. Across the generations, immigrants provide a favorable net return.
  • Areas with higher rates of immigration are more likely to appreciate the benefits of immigration and tolerate cultural differences, while those communities where the rate of immigration is lowest have the strongest antagonism toward immigrants.

Immigration will always be a challenge for a modern democratic society. A country can only absorb so many newcomers so fast, it’s not easy to fully integrate new arrivals. These are all major factors in determining whether the pluses outweigh the minuses. Given the complexity of the issue, what is needed from our leaders is not simplistic divisive rhetoric but a pragmatic approach that carefully weighs all factors.

Read More

Wegovy box
Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images

How Congress can quickly make Ozempic, Wegovy affordable

Pearl, the author of “ChatGPT, MD,” teaches at both the Stanford University School of Medicine and the Stanford Graduate School of Business. He is a former CEO of The Permanente Medical Group.

A whopping one in eight U.S. adults have taken GLP-1 drugs like Wegovy and Ozempic for weight loss and related conditions. Their popularity and efficacy have sparked a prescription-writing frenzy in recent years, leaving both medications on the Food and Drug Administration's drug shortage list since May 2023.

Keep ReadingShow less
Bar graph of shopping carts
Andriy Onufriyenko/Getty Images

Have prices increased 40 percent to 50 percent since Trump left office?

This fact brief was originally published by Wisconsin Watch. Read the original here. Fact briefs are published by newsrooms in the Gigafact network, and republished by The Fulcrum. Visit Gigafact to learn more.

Have prices increased 40 percent to 50 percent since Trump left office?

No.

Cumulative inflation since former President Donald Trump left office in January 2021 through May 2024 was 20.1 percent according to data from the Federal Reserve’s Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers, or CPI-U.

Trump told a crowd on June 18 in Racine, Wis., that "real inflation" is more than twice that.

Keep ReadingShow less
White House

Whoever occupies the Whtie House next year will have the opportunity to make the federal workforce more efficient.

DEA/M. BORCHI/Getty Images

Project 2025: Managing the bureaucracy

Breslin is the Joseph C. Palamountain Jr. Chair of Political Science at Skidmore College and author of “A Constitution for the Living: Imagining How Five Generations of Americans Would Rewrite the Nation’s Fundamental Law.”

This is part of a series offering a nonpartisan counter to Project 2025, a conservative guideline to reforming government and policymaking during the first 180 days of a second Trump administration. The Fulcrum's "Cross-Partisan Project 2025" relies on unbiased critical thinking, reexamines outdated assumptions, and uses reason, scientific evidence, and data in analyzing and critiquing Project 2025

Efficiency is not a word that often comes to mind when contemplating the federal bureaucracy. At almost 3 million workers strong, and representing an eye-popping 2 percent of the entire American labor force, the federal bureaucracy is a behemoth. Add to that eight times as many federal contractors and no one — not Democrats and not Republicans — can claim the bureaucratic sector is streamlined.

Donald Devine, Dennis Dean Kirk and Paul Dans, the authors of chapter 3 of the Heritage Foundation’s “Mandate for Leadership: The Conservative Promise” (aka Project 2025), understand the numbers. And the problem. Or at least I thought they did.

Keep ReadingShow less
Protestors call for health care beneifts

People demonstrate in support of health care in 2017 in Montana, which expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

William Campbell-Corbis via Getty Images

Has Medicaid expansion in states improved health outcomes?

This fact brief was originally published by EconoFact. Read the original here. Fact briefs are published by newsrooms in the Gigafact network, and republished by The Fulcrum. Visit Gigafact to learn more.

Has Medicaid expansion in states improved health outcomes?

Yes.

Studies have shown that Medicaid expansion in states does lead to improved health outcomes.

Keep ReadingShow less
People at a press conference. One has a sign that reads "Contraception is health care."

Supporters hold signs as Sen. Tammy Duckworth speaks during a news conference on the Right to Contraception Act in D.C. on June 5.

Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Do about 90 percent of Americans support access to contraception?

This fact brief was originally published by Wisconsin Watch. Read the original here. Fact briefs are published by newsrooms in the Gigafact network, and republished by The Fulcrum. Visit Gigafact to learn more.

Do about 90 percent of Americans support access to contraception?

Yes.

Some 91 percent of registered voters said in a national poll released June 11, 2024, that birth control should be legal (73 percent said they feel strongly, 18 percent said somewhat strongly).

Keep ReadingShow less