President Trump, while complaining earlier this year about immigration levels during his first months in office, reportedly suggested that Haitian immigrants “all have AIDS.” As if that wasn’t bad enough, Trump said that Nigerians coming to the U.S. would never “go back to their huts” in Africa. He explained that Afghan immigrants came from a “terrorist haven.” Trump has a history of disrespecting immigrants. He slammed Hispanics saying,
“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”
Trump advocated banning all Muslims.
Yet Trump’s policies that are anti-immigrant don’t stop there. Trump has insisted on controversial immigration reduction proposals that would have a hard time passing even among some Republicans, including drastically cutting the overall number of green cards given out and transforming the way they are given out. People opposed to immigrants coming into America are pleased with Trump’s recent insistence that any deal to save DACA, which protected young undocumented immigrants brought to the US as children, including cuts to family-based immigration, and the diversity visa program, which allows up to 50,000 individuals from countries with low levels of immigration to the US to come on visas distributed by lottery.
The fundamental problem with Trump’s anti-immigrant position is that it is directly contrary to the premise of his tax plan. Trump’s position is that the way to enhance the economic viability of the country is to reduce corporate taxes, thereby attracting more businesses to this country. The idea is that if companies can become more profitable in America, they will come. The assumption is that those companies can find the workforce they need to remain profitable.
The problem is that the underlying growth potential of any economy is shaped not only by productivity, or output per worker, but also by the number of workers entering the labor force. The growth of the labor force is in turn determined mainly by the number of native-born and immigrant working-age people. Over the last two decades, the United States’ advantage in productivity growth has narrowed sharply, while its population advantages, compared with both Europe and Japan, have essentially held steady.
Thus babies born in the U.S., and immigrants coming to America are critically important. Like productivity, population growth has been slowing worldwide in recent decades, the big difference being that the gaps among the rich nations are increasingly significant. In the 1960s the United States population growth rate averaged 1.2 percent, or 50 percent higher than Europe’s and about the same as Japan’s. By the late 1960s, population growth peaked worldwide because of the spread of birth control and other cultural shifts, but it has slowed much more gradually in the United States than in its rivals.
Trump presumes that his economic policy will raise the nation’s growth by 3%. But that worthy goal will be virtually impossible to achieve if he takes the advice of some of his supporters to sharply curb legal immigration to the United States. America needs immigrants to grow and prosper, especially highly-skilled immigrants who fuel innovation and spur higher productivity gains across the economy.
Immigrants boost the nation’s economic growth rate in two important ways: by increasing the total number of workers employed, and by raising the overall productivity of workers, both immigrant and native born alike.
Without a healthy inflow of immigrants, the U.S. labor force would soon begin to decline, imposing a drag on growth while adding to the strain on our retirement programs. Annual growth of the labor force has slowed from 1.2 percent in the 1990s to 0.5 percent in the current decade. And with the number of native-born Americans of working age on a path to decline by 8 million between now and 2035, according to the Pew Research Center, we need immigrant workers and their children to maintain our economic growth into the future.
Without a growing workforce, U.S. companies will find it increasingly difficult to hire the workers they need to meet domestic and global demand. Along with the high-tech sector, manufacturing, agriculture and construction are expected to suffer the most acute shortages of workers. A declining workforce would impose a drag on potential growth and reduce our economic power and influence in the world.
To make matters worse, Americans are having fewer babies. Pundits from across the political spectrum are suddenly wrestling with the question. The combination of greater education and employment opportunities for women causes most countries to turn to immigration to make up the difference in the labor force.
In a low population growth society, inequality is more easily entrenched, parental wealth more easily passed on to heirs, new startups are less able to expand rapidly, and declining generational cohort sizes reduce the need for certain classes of labor (child care and education most notably). The logic is not entirely intuitive, but a declining population means the employed share of the population must rise to maintain existing economic functions, and productivity per worker must rise to maintain output. Yet for more than a decade productivity growth in the developed world has been low and the employed population share has been stagnant or falling.
A low population growth environment means the economic pie grows slower too — which means, in the long run, that wealth consolidates. And in the very long run, we miss out on potential Mozarts, Washingtons, and Edisons.
It shouldn’t be immigration versus fertility.
Let’s increase both.
As long as American values of pluralism, integration, and personal liberty persist, we will need immigrants to fill a vital role in our cultural milieu. Plus, boosting fertility is going to have to be a long-run play: In the short run, US population growth persistently undershoots forecasts.
What we really need is a political movement in favor of population growth from all sources. We need policies that remove fiscal penalties for marriage and encourage marital stability, that recognize the service parents do for society, and that subsidize childbearing and child-rearing accordingly — even if, on their own, such policies won’t restore us to stable fertility levels. We need new cultural norms that make our society more family-friendly. And we need cultural leaders to set an example, have kids, and promote childbearing and parenting.
What kinds of policies might help? Replacing the estate tax with a per-heir “inheritance” tax would encourage wealthy people to have children and also to break up their estates, killing two birds with one stone. Expanding existing tax credits for children, and consolidating complex child tax provisions into one larger benefit, would help ease parents’ budgets — even more so if refundability were expanded (or if credits came by monthly check).
And we could get even more creative: Should rent control be adjusted for family size? Should bigger families get to cut in lines? Should minivans with car seats get special parking places akin to those for disabled people? Should families with at least four kids be given a public honor or award and a meeting with their senator or governor? Many countries have tried such social or cultural policies: Sometimes they have an effect, often they don’t, but as part of a wide basket of political and social changes, they may be useful.
Meanwhile, we need to continue our traditional American immigration policy, meaning an open hand to anyone who will work hard and integrate into American life. We should accept more immigrants, even as we stiffen requirements to learn English. We should accept more refugees, even as we prioritize pro-integration resettlement policies like requiring refugees to participate in native-majority, English-language-using social organizations.
Contrary to the Trump administration, we should expand the “diversity” visa category massively, seeking immigrants from unusual locations who, the research suggests, integrate faster: But we should screen them for personality characteristics that indicate personal flexibility and preference for diversity, which the research also suggests boosts integration.
More babies, more immigrants, more integration. This will yield an America that is larger, stronger, richer, more diverse, and more American than ever. If we are to make America great again, we need more babies and we need more immigrants.
The U.S. economy churned out 235,000 new jobs in February in the first full month of the Trump White House, signaling steady growth, helped by weather-sensitive industries like construction. “The economy has added almost half a million jobs in the first two months of 2017, the best back-to-back performance since last summer,” MarketWatch reporter Jeffrey Bartash reported Friday. President Donald Trump has vowed to clamp down on immigration from certain countries and restrict H1B visas for skilled workers. But as demonstrated above, the U.S. will need more immigrants to keep the workforce growing.
A new report by the Pew Research Center, a nonprofit think tank in Washington, D.C., concluded. “The most important component of the growth in the working-age population over the next two decades will be the arrival of future immigrants,” it said.
“The U.S. tech industry is utterly dependent upon foreigners, not only for workers, but for ideas and entrepreneurship.” 97 companies, including many Silicon Valley firms, signed a legal “amicus brief” protesting President’s Trump’s recent immigration ban.