Immigration and the economy

This data from the Pew Research Center illustrates just how connected the influx of illegal immigration into the United States is tied to the soundness of the American and global economy:

The annual inflow of unauthorized immigrants to the United States was nearly two-thirds smaller in the March 2007 to March 2009 period than it had been from March 2000 to March 2005, according to new estimates by the Pew Hispanic Center, a project of the Pew Research Center.
This sharp decline has contributed to an overall reduction of 8% in the number of unauthorized immigrants currently living in the U.S. — to 11.1 million in March 2009 from a peak of 12 million in March 2007, according to the estimates. The decrease represents the first significant reversal in the growth of this population over the past two decades. […]

During the first half of the decade, an average of about 850,000 new unauthorized immigrants entered each year, increasing the unauthorized population from 8.4 million in 2000 to 11.1 million in 2005. Since then, the average annual inflow dropped to about 550,000 per year from March 2005 to March 2007 and declined further to an average of 300,000 per year for March 2007 to March 2009. As a result, the unauthorized population in 2009 returned to the level it had been in 2005.

And here’s a handy chart to drive the point home:


So I understand the concern that people have with a bunch of illegal immigrants coming here when unemployment remains so high, but it does also look like the market is answering this problem at least to some degree.

The question of assimilation was raised earlier. I think this op-ed from Jeb Bush is a good place to start on that question.

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3 thoughts on “Immigration and the economy

  1. The decrease doesn’t tell us much about the effect on our welfare state — it was bound to decrease after the first flood, unless everyone in Mexico came across. It’s sort of like Obama claiming unemployment claims dropping from 750,000 — it had to moderate unless everyone became unemployed. There might be a correlation between the health of our economy and the number of illegal immigrants, but the fact that it’s still high with no hiring going on tells me that the health of the economy is not the main factor.

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  2. Seems that the reduction started before the economy really hit the skids. Farmer may be right that it was probably going to happen anyway. It will be interesting to see, though, what the number will be for the two years of economic meltdown. The last number is only really looking at six months or so of utter mayhem.

    If we were to get serious about stopping employment except by way of legal immigration, it would be particularly interesting to see what would happen to the numbers then. I certainly have a lot more sympathy for those that come here to work than for those that come here for our public services. I really think that there are more of the former than the latter, but it can’t really be proven either way.

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  3. Nearly all complaints about immigrants and unemployment resolve to the same hash of lump-of-labor thinking and, frankly, xenophobia.

    Consider that one never, ever hears that we should refrain from having kids lest the labor pool be exhausted. On the contrary, the people who worry most about immigrants taking away jobs also frequently worry about the dearth of white babies.

    Yet they too eat away at the lump of labor, if only we were to use the same (il)logic on them as we do on Latinos.

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