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By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Analyze historical patterns of immigration
  • Explain economic effects of immigration
  • Evaluate notable proposals for immigration reform

Most Americans would be outraged if a law prevented them from moving to another city or another state. However, when the conversation turns to crossing national borders and are about other people arriving in the United States, laws preventing such movement often seem more reasonable. Some of the tensions over immigration stem from worries over how it might affect a country’s culture, including differences in language, and patterns of family, authority, or gender relationships. Economics does not have much to say about such cultural issues. Some of the worries about immigration do, however, have to do with its effects on wages and income levels, and how it affects government taxes and spending. On those topics, economists have insights and research to offer.

Historical patterns of immigration

Supporters and opponents of immigration look at the same data and see different patterns. Those who express concern about immigration levels to the United States point to graphics like [link] which shows total inflows of immigrants decade by decade through the twentieth century. Clearly, the level of immigration has been high and rising in recent years, reaching and exceeding the towering levels of the early twentieth century. However, those who are less worried about immigration point out that the high immigration levels of the early twentieth century happened when total population was much lower. Since the U.S. population roughly tripled during the twentieth century, the seemingly high levels in immigration in the 1990s and 2000s look relatively smaller when they are divided by the population.

Immigration since 1900

The graph shows that number of immigrants between 1900 and 1909 was (in thousands) 8,202. In between 1910 and 1919 the number was 6,347. Between 1920 and 1929, the number was 4,296. Between 1930 and 1939, the number was 699. Between 1940 and 1949, the number was 857. Between 1950 and 1959, the number was 2,499. Between 1960 and 1969, the number was 3,213. Between 1970 and 1979, the number was 4,248. Between 1980 and 1989, the number was 6,248. Between 1990 and 1999, the number was 9,775. Between 2000 and 2008, the number was 10,126.
The number of immigrants in each decade declined between 1900 and the 1940s, but has risen sharply in recent decades. (Source: U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Yearbook of Immigration Statistics: 2011 , Table 1)

Where have the immigrants come from? Immigrants from Europe were more than 90% of the total in the first decade of the twentieth century, but less than 20% of the total by the end of the century. By the 2000s, about half of U.S. immigration came from the rest of the Americas, especially Mexico, and about a quarter came from various countries in Asia.

Economic effects of immigration

A surge of immigration can affect the economy in a number of different ways. In this section, we will consider how immigrants might benefit the rest of the economy, how they might affect wage levels, and how they might affect government spending at the federal and local level.

To understand the economic consequences of immigration, consider the following scenario. Imagine that the immigrants entering the United States matched the existing U.S. population in age range, education, skill levels, family size, occupations, and so on. How would immigration of this type affect the rest of the U.S. economy? Immigrants themselves would be much better off, because their standard of living would be higher in the United States. Immigrants would contribute to both increased production and increased consumption. Given enough time for adjustment, the range of jobs performed, income earned, taxes paid, and public services needed would not be much affected by this kind of immigration. It would be as if the population simply increased a little.

Questions & Answers

what are the determinant of economics growth
Zuberi Reply
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Jude Reply
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Jale
what do u mean jale?
tesfie
what do you mean by what?
tesfie
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Caasianebok
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Caasianebok
meaning of Money, worth and wealth, economic goods and service
Mariana Reply
money is just means of exchange denomination of wealth while wealth is the sum total of all assets held in either liquid or non liquid form, where as worth is the exchange value of an asset.
tesfie
hi
Hamdiya
why do we study economics
Hamdiya
We also studied economics in order to know about the human behaviour or phycology towards there needs
sarmad
we study Economics to adjust unlimited human needs with the limited natural resources of the earth in order to achieve susyainabl economic development.
tesfie
hi guys.....pls help me out, am confused.. should i go for accounting/accountancy or I should go for business administration?.
Isabella
bussiness
Zuberi
what is equilibrium
Daniel Reply
it is intersect point of economics line in graph, but everytime not graph
Ahmet
it is the intersection point of supply and demand curves
tesfie
GDP is domestic gross product. refer my site amanchabukswar.wordpress.com
Aman Reply
Hi everyone
AWOYEMI
hello lovely where am I?
Becky
Good morning
AWOYEMI
morning
Daniel
hi dear bro
tesfie
why does a firm continue operating at a breakeven point
Prince Reply
to retain its customers for later coming profits.
tesfie
this is because the firm's revenu is covering the variable cost so the firm should continuos business
Florencia
and zero profit is a normal profit which covers entrepreneur's profit along with recovering wages, interest and rent.
Farooq
what economic trend can we expect after lifting of 10 year long sanctions in an national economy?
tesfie Reply
difference between change in demand and change in quantity demanded
Maurice Reply
how
kumar
how to change
kumar
For a demand with repect to price. change in demand refers to the shifting of demand curve, where as change in quantity demanded means movement along the given demand curve.
Farooq
According to lional Robbins how did he explain economics
Raphael Reply
He defined economics as a science which studies human behavior as a relationship between ends and scares which has alternative uses.
Emmanuel
What is economics
Nasiru Reply
why are some countries producing inside the ppf
Claire Reply
prove or disprove that balance of trade of trade deficit is a cause of an abnormal demand curve?
Chioma Reply
what's the fixed cost at output zero
Saidou Reply
fixed cost stay the same regardless of the level of output
Luka
example; electricity bill is fixed cost....but when the machinery plant is not active and perhaps so offices are locked up due to unforseen circumstances..... definitely the electric nose dive.... that is a reduction in fixed right? am just saying hope am making a point Luke?
klevic
what are the differences between change in demand and change in quantity demand
Sulaiman Reply
I think change in demand has to do with change from one product to another product....while change in quantity demand has to do with change in terms of units but same product....maybe due price change most especially, seasonal reasons too.
klevic
change in demand has to do with price of that commodity why change in quantity demand has to do with shift an has to do with other factor other than price
FIDELIS
what is consumers behaviour
Marfo Reply
i think it means the reaction expected of consumers in respect of changes in economic activities... most especially changes made by producers~wholesalers~retailers
klevic

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Source:  OpenStax, Principles of economics. OpenStax CNX. Sep 19, 2014 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11613/1.11
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