Shedding Light on Immigration Immigration Brings Little Economic Impact to US, but Hurts Some States and Poor Workers

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"There's no disaster lurking here," says Robert Inman, "We are not struggling with a bankruptcy issue. We can have serious discussions of immigration without getting hysterical."

Mr. Inman and a group of researchers have just released an authoritative report on immigration and its impact on the US economy.

The report's most important finding is that, for the nation as a whole, legal and illegal immigration together, are a wash - neither boon nor bust. Neutral score Subtract the extra costs of immigrants from their contributions to the massive American economy, and the result is a net gain - from $1 billion to $10 billion. That's tiny - a $7 billion gain would equal about 0.1 percent of the national output of goods and services, says George Borjas, a Harvard University economist. Both Mr. Borjas and Mr. Inman, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business, belong to a 12-person National Research Council panel that put together a report on the economic, demographic, and fiscal effects of immigration. One goal was to sort fact from myth for both the public and the US Commission on Immigration Reform, appointed by Congress. Though immigration economics amount to a wash for the entire country, the annual inflow of about 800,000 legal immigrants and another 200,000 to 300,000 illegal immigrants does hurt some groups. The report finds: * Immigration has widened the rich-poor income gap. Low education levels for many immigrants depress wages by about 5 percent for native-born Americans who never finished high school. That represents about 44 percent of the total decline in wages for high school dropouts between 1980 and 1994. Other trends, such as technology, imports, and a decline in unionization, also hurt this group. Blacks, nationally, have not suffered disproportionately, but have been hurt in cities where immigrants are concentrated. * New immigrants especially compete for jobs with established immigrants. * Immigrants pose a financial burden for states where their populations are concentrated. …