Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Impact of Immigration on US Studied

A new study by the Center for Immigration Studies draws some surprising conclusions about the impact of immigration, legal and illegal, on American demographics. For instance, it is generally assumed that most of the millions of immigrants to the US over the past two decades are young people, since younger people are more likely to uproot themselves and migrate elsewhere. Some immigration supporters argue that this has provided the US with an infusion of younger people, helping the US population remain relatively young, compared to that of Japan or Europe. But the study indicates that the effect of immigration on the average age of the US population is modest.
Even though the 20 years prior to 2000 saw the largest flow of new immigrants in American history, and almost 22 million of those immigrants still lived in the United States in 2000, the impact on the nation’s average age is very modest. This, of course, is not surprising because the average age of post-1980 immigrants in 2000 was nearly 33 years, which is not that different than the 36 years for the rest of the population. Mathematically, this small difference means that post-1980 immigration cannot have much impact on the overall average age of the country.
Turning to post-1991 immigrants, we again see a small effect on the average age. While post-1991 immigrants are slightly under 29 years of age on average, Table 1 shows that if the nearly 12 million post-1991 immigrants are excluded, the average age in America would be 36.1. Again, this compares to 35.8 when these immigrants are included. Thus, post-1991 immigrants have a slightly smaller impact on overall average age in America than do post-1980 immigrants. It must be remembered that although post-1991 immigrants are significantly younger than natives on average, they account for only about 4 percent of the total population. Even post-1980 immigrants account for about 8 percent of the total population. While recent immigrants may have a very large effect on some aspects of American society, their direct effect on the average age is very modest.
It should be pointed out that the average age figure for natives of 35.4 includes the U.S.-born children of recent immigrants. If the children of post-1980 immigrants are excluded, all of whom are under age 21 in 2000, the average age for natives would be 36.1 years. As for the overall population, if post-1980 immigrants and all of their U.S.-born children are excluded, the overall average age in the United States would be 36.8 compared to the 35.8 when they are included. In short, the average age in the United States is about 36 years with the 28 million post-1980 immigrants and their children, and without them it would have been 37 years. While average age is not the only way to look at the age structure of the nation, the results above make clear that immigration in the 20 years prior to 2000, including all of the immigrants’ children, has had only a very modest impact the country’s average age.
Immigration has had a more significant effect on the percentage of working age persons in the US. According to the study, excluding post-1980 immigrants, "64.6 percent of the population would be of working-age, 1.6 percentage points lower than the 66.2 percent when they are included."

The demolishes an idea, frequently cited by high immigration enthusiasts, that large numbers of immigrants - particular those from Mexico - will eventually bail out the nation's foundering social security system. Such advocates argue that the US needs the infusion of millions of young workers to offset the increasing numbers of elderly Americans drawing on the social security system. However, the study indicates that, even at its astonishingly high current numbers, immigration will have little impact on social security's ultimate solvency since the overall effect on the nation's working age population remains modest. In fact, the study determined that even a near halving of the current rate of immigration would have only a minor impact on social security.
Reducing immigration from 800,000 to 470,000 a year would be substantial. But relative to the enormous size of the program and its projected deficits, the effect would very modest. Even if one uses the percentage-point change in the actuarial deficit discussed above, ignoring the actual dollar value of the change, the difference between the 470,000 and 800,000 immigration scenarios is still only 0.12 percentage points (2.01 percent minus 1.89 percent) creating a relative change of just 6.5 percent. Thus a substantial reduction in legal immigration of 41 percent has only a small impact on Social Security, no matter what measure is used.
More interesting is the study's analysis of fertility trends. Fertility is declining across the developed world, most markedly in Japan, Europe and Russia, where birthrates have fallen so far below the replacement level (2.1 births per woman, on average) that the populations of those nations and regions is expected to shrink without immigration. But the CIS study suggests that, again, the effect of immigration is much more modest that most Americans assume. The study found that...
...that women in America ages 15 to 44 had a TFR (total fertility rate) of roughly 2.1 (2.069) and 66 births per thousand. Table 5 shows TFR for native-born women only. In 2000, native-born American women had a TFR of about 2.0 (1.98) and 63 births per thousand.15 Thus, the nation’s 31 million immigrants increased births per thousand in the United States from 63 to 66, or 4.5 percent. As for TFR, immigration increased births per woman by 0.09 (about 4 percent), from 1.98 to 2.07, a very modest effect. Without immigrants, American fertility would still be about two children per woman. Thus it is absolutely clear that the much higher overall TFR in the United States compared to Europe or other western democracies is not due to immigration. For example, of the 0.7 children per woman difference between the United States and Europe, 0.6 or 86 percent of it would exist even if there were no births to immigrants in the United States. Native-born American women, for whatever reason, have significantly more children on average than women in other developed countries.
Immigrants to the US do have a significantly higher birthrate, compared to native-born Americans. The study estimated that in 2000 the TFR for immigrants stood at 2.71, compared to TFR of 1.98 for native-born American women. However, given the size of the US population, the study concluded that "immigrant fertility is not sufficiently high to fundamentally change the nation’s overall fertility rate."

Of course, the study only calculates immigration's impact on demographic distribution. It does not examine its effect on culture. The large number of immigrants currently residing in, and still entering, the US may not radically reshape its demographic structure, but it will surely remold its cultural landscape, and not for the better. The massive influx of Spanish-speaking immigrants, many of whom do not assimilate into US culture and do not learn English, is creating a cultural and linguistic divide that is increasingly evident in America's largest cities (and increasingly in small towns). Spanish-speaking enclaves, provided with their own Spanish-language media and government agencies that conduct business in Spanish, only reinforce the tendency for many immigrants to opt not to learn English. The result is a nation increasingly divided by culture and, worse, by language. This will inevitably produce a rise in ethnic tensions that threatens the cohesiveness of America's already fragmented culture. Racial confrontations are increasingly common in US schools, a harbinger of unpleasantness to come. The study also did not examine immigrations role in financial ruining the lower class by driving wages persistently and sharply down. This affects American minority groups, especially African-Americans, most profoundly, further increasing racial tensions and dividing US society.


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