For every 1,000 immigrants living in a U.S. county, 46 manufacturing jobs are created or preserved that would otherwise not exist or have moved elsewhere, a new study reveals.
That’s perhaps the most notable finding stemming from a recent report from Americas Society and Council of the Americas (AS/COA) and Partnership for a New American Economy.
The report uses data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the American Community Survey to measure the impact of immigration on three leading indicators of community vitality:
- The number of middle-class manufacturing jobs;
- The health of the housing market;
- The size of the local U.S.-born population.
Jason Marczak, director of policy at Americas Society and Council of the Americas, tells Industry Today that the data illustrates how foreign-born workers play an outside role in the preservation or creation of many U.S. jobs—an increasingly important measure of community vitality.
“What’s important to understand is that immigrants are vital components of our economy, and that they have always been vital components of our economy, filling a variety of critical higher-skilled and lower-skilled jobs,” Marczak says. “Immigrants perform jobs that go everywhere from taxi drivers to scientists and everything in between, all jobs critical to the U.S. economy.”
He adds, “Our global competitiveness in the 21st century would erode without any one of those professions.”
The report, which studies economic activity in about 3,100 counties, also underlines how immigrants make a particularly significant impact in the manufacturing sector.
For instance, the more than 40 million immigrants living in the U.S. have created or preserved 1.8 million manufacturing jobs nationally, the analysis claims. In addition, attracting 100,000 new immigrants per year would preserve 4,600 American manufacturing jobs and grow U.S. housing wealth by $80 billion annually.
What’s more, immigration has accounted for a commanding majority of job growth in four of the five U.S. counties that have experienced the greatest increase in manufacturing jobs since 1970, such as Harris County in Texas – home to Houston – where the increase of 43,299 manufacturing jobs since 1970 is attributable entirely to immigration.
“The manufacturing jobs that are created or preserved because of immigrants are not manufacturing jobs that necessarily go to immigrants,” Marczak explains. “They’re manufacturing jobs that are filled by both foreign-born and US-born workers.”
Estimates from the study also indicate that 40 percent of Los Angeles County’s manufacturing jobs would vanish without immigrants – another example, Marczak says, of how immigration triggers more demand for multiple services and adds prosperity to local economies, all of which help support manufacturing.
“We did a comparison of Los Angeles County and Cook County, which includes Chicago, both of which had more than 800,000 manufacturing jobs back in 1970, about twice as many as the next biggest counties, and more than 43 of the 50 states,” Marczak says. “But we see two different scenarios unfold. Both Cook County and Los Angeles County have since attracted many immigrants, although the change in the foreign-born population was much higher in Los Angeles County than in Cook County.”
Ultimately, he says, Los Angeles County saw a 340 percent increase in its foreign-born population while Cook County saw a 120 percent increase. The population gap was the difference maker in each county’s manufacturing landscape.
“Both Cook County and Los Angeles County lost manufacturing jobs over the course of the next 40 years, as was unfortunately typical across the United States, but Los Angeles County lost much fewer jobs than Cook County lost,” Marczak continues. “Los Angeles County lost about 50 percent of its manufacturing jobs over the next 40 years, and Cook County lost about 75 percent.”
Likewise, the study shows immigrants are injecting new life into cities and rural areas, making once declining areas more attractive to the U.S.-born population.
For instance, the report says that for every 1,000 immigrants in a county, 270 U.S.-born residents move there in response. At the same time, the average immigrant who moves to a community raises the total value of housing wealth in his or her county by $92,800.
Naturalization matters to communities as well. Naturalized immigrants are more valuable contributors in the labor market, and out-earn migrants who are not citizens by as much as 16 percent.
The more than 40 million immigrants in the U.S. are also responsible for an estimated $3.7 trillion boost to home equity.
These are all reasons why both organizations continue to advocate for changing the nation’s immigration laws, a hotly-debated, often split topic of discussion among legislators and their constituents.
Both organizations claim that by expanding “guest worker” programs and making it easier for high-skilled workers to obtain visas, manufacturers in the U.S. will have an easier time finding and obtaining the kind of high-skilled talent that remains scarce among U.S.-born workers, particularly now that millions of Baby Boomers are retiring or plan to retire soon.
Marczak says that by 2030, the U.S. will need to add 25 million workers to the labor force to sustain its current levels of economic growth.
“We need immigrants to maintain a strong workforce,” he says. “As legislators think about what to do in regard to immigration policies moving forward, it’s important to keep in mind that we need immigration policies that are going to allow us to attract the immigrant workers that are vital for our economy in the future, both high-skilled, as well as lower-skilled, immigrant workers.”
About Americas Society/Council of the Americas
Americas Society/Council of the Americas (AS/COA) unite opinion leaders to exchange ideas and create solutions to the challenges of the Americas today. Americas Society (AS), the recipient of a grant from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund to produce this research, was established by David Rockefeller in 1965. It is the premier forum dedicated to education, debate, and dialogue in the Americas. Council of the Americas (COA), affiliate organization to AS, is the premier international business organization whose members share a common commitment to economic and social development, open markets, the rule of law, and democracy throughout the Western Hemisphere. Recognizing the link between U.S. immigration and overall hemispheric relations, AS/COA launched its Integration and Immigration Initiative in 2007 to draw on its public–private convening power in order to bring together key constituencies in new gateway cities and to produce research on the link between changing demographics and economic competitiveness.
About Partnership for a New American Economy
The Partnership for a New American Economy brings together more than 500 Republican, Democratic and Independent mayors and business leaders who support immigration reforms that will help create jobs for Americans today. The Partnership’s members include mayors of more than 35 million people nationwide and business leaders of companies that generate more than $1.5 trillion and employ more than 4 million people across all sectors of the economy, from Agriculture to Aerospace, Hospitality to High Tech and Media to Manufacturing. Partnership members understand that immigration is essential to maintaining the productive, diverse and flexible workforce that America needs to ensure prosperity over the coming generations.