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Immigrants boost U.S., authors say

Labor shortages are a growing problem for American business.

The reason: Right behind the post-World War II baby boom generation is a baby bust generation, a much smaller group of Americans between the ages of 6 and 23 years.

As a result, there will be at least 20%fewer entrants into the job market in the 1990s than in the 1970s. We are quickly becoming a society looking for people to fill jobs, instead of a society trying to find jobs for people.

The baby bust phenomenon is not unique to the United States. It is a problem afflicting nearly every industrialized country. But the United States has one huge advantage over its major global competitors: It remains the beacon of hope for the world’s “huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

However, the nation’s new immigrants are not the “wretched refuse of your teeming shore.” The new immigrants, from Latin and Asian cultures, cast a different shadow.

This is the message to two new, important books that will contribute to the next round of debate on “immigration reform” now heating up in Congress.

In The Economic Consequences of Immigration, University of Maryland economist Julian Simon points out that immigrants arriving between 1901 and 1910 constituted 9.6% of the U.S. population. But he found that the current wave of immigrants constitutes only about 2% of our population. Simon argues immigration is good for the nation. His arguments are based on sound evidence, not demagogic assertions rooted in prejudice and emotion.

The contribution of immigrants is also an important theme in Friends or Strangers; The Impact of Immigrants on the U.S. Economy by George J. Borjas, an economist at the University of California at Santa Barbara.

As with Simon, Borjas studied the immigration data. He also concluded immigrants boost economic growth, a view supported by leading economists, including former presidents of the American Economic Association and former members of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers.

Among the findings of Simon and Borjas:

  • Immigrants do not take jobs away from native born Americans.
  • Immigrants work harder and save more money than native Americans.
  • Immigrants are more likely to start new businesses.
  • Immigrants pay more in taxes than they use in social services.
  • Immigrants have about the same number of children as the general population.
  • Immigrants are less likely to commit crimes.
  • Immigrants fill high level jobs: more than 25% hold professional or technical jobs, compared to 15% in the general population.

These are important findings. Before we post more “keep out” signs, we should consider that immigrants bring energy, connections and know-how, enhancing the nation’s ability to compete in the global marketplace.

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