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The Value of Immigrants

Posted by: Michael Mandel on May 10

In a new column, I estimate that immigrants and other foreign workers are bringing about $200 billion of human capital into the country annually. That substantially compensates for the large trade deficit.

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Reader Comments

John Evans

May 11, 2005 08:29 AM

Numbers like these are raw and noncontextual. There are huge costs for any country facing mass immigration ~ especially if much of it is illegal. Business leaders may revel in the extra income, but many poorer areas face depressing social problems for people who are already on the edge. In a country like the UK which has 10 times the population density of the US, the problems are acute, particularly for the already disadvantaged. This was a big issue at last week's General Election.

William Ryan

May 11, 2005 10:37 AM

From what I understand as a student of economics, having a trade deficit isn't necessarily a bad thing at all. It shows that there is an influx of capital. Looking at China, with its massive trade surlpus, it seems that a surplus means you're dependent upon external markets for your products. In that respect, having such a healthy and powerful economy that it actually needs to consume lots of foreign goods seems to be a good sign. Although trade deficit CAN become debt, it isn't inherently debt in and of itself.

I'd love to hear your response to this claim, if you're willing to engage it. I've heard a lot of mainstream press worried about the deficit, but most economists and independent bloggers don't seem to agree. The truth of the matter is sorely needed.

Jack Krupansky

May 11, 2005 03:00 PM

I'm a diehard PROponent of more open immigration. I say: Bring 'em on! Whether your numbers and analysis are dead-on or not, it has always seemed to me that any number of economic and social problems are "solved" with the new blood that immigrants bring to the game. These are people seeking opportunity, full of hope and optimism, not jaded clock-watchers demanding more than their fair "share" existing assets.

Face it, our current economy is biased towards shrinking the proporation of high-end workers and increasing the ranks of the lower-middle class. Blame globalization or offshoring or outsourcing or whatever, but that's how the economy is evolving. Immigrants are not the cause of this demographic dynamic, but they do help the economy grow when a lot of our indigenous engine cylinders (airlines, car manufacturers, telecom, and even technology) are clearly misfiring.

Social security begins to work again with the children of immigrants and younger immigrants themselves working during the critical time of the swelling ranks of retiring babyboomers.

Again: Bring 'em on!

-- Jack Krupansky


May 17, 2005 05:06 PM

The amount of money sent back to Mexico and other places must be taken into account. I live in South Texas and the amount of money I see being sent to Mexico via Wire is astounding.

I believe the aliens from Mexico / Central / South America are depressing the wages in the Southern states not to mention the national security issues.

Those on welfare today were the people who in days gone by had the jobs with proponents of immigration state "no one else wants". Of course not one else wants these hard, low pay jobs when they can get welfare.

In today’s smaller more mobile world these aliens are not joining the country as so many immigrants of previous generations have. Most are here as visitors to earn (illegally) hard currency and ship it back over the border via wire transfer. All of this is done with the encouragement of the Mexican government as well as the ACLU.

Jim Enloe

May 26, 2005 04:45 PM

Mexico accounts for 3/4 of repatriated funds and the total is around 20 Billion a year. This in an economy of 11 Trillion. And consider that Mexicans send a small portion of the dollars they earn for their labor back home - obviously the United States is benefiting tremendously from the labor of illegals who will never receive credit for the taxes they paid. Some areas of the US suffer disproportionaly and I'm in favor of tighter borders - but the economic argument is clearly in favor of immigration whatever the rate of repatriation.

remember alamo

June 4, 2005 07:00 PM

20million+ ilegal mexican ALIENS,half of on average $500a week sent out of U.S economy into Mexico's(who with all the money U.S. has given to them still has no sanitary drinking water).So, lets say $200*20,000,000 every week sent home,tax-free,only them and western union benefitting.What about contractors who employ only illegal aliens and are able to underbid AMERICAN contractors due to the fact that they pay no workers comp,no ssi benefits,no nothing but already low wages directly to worker.What about illegal aliens swelling populations in already crowded areas causing to demand for all goods and services to go up causing prices to go up?What about AMERICAN taxpayer's dollars paying for fraudulent ssi#'s used to reap health and social service assistance?
Now add on money that leaves here from AMERICANS pockets on drug trade with mexico.Are people so unAMERICAN as to say bring on all these problems?Bring on immigration is an insult to those people the mexican army slaughtered at the Alamo partner.

Thank you for your interest. This blog is no longer active.



Michael Mandel, BW's award-winning chief economist, provides his unique perspective on the hot economic issues of the day. From globalization to the future of work to the ups and downs of the financial markets, Mandel-named 2006 economic journalist of the year by the World Leadership Forum-offers cutting edge analysis and commentary.

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