The Case for More Immigration
By David Henderson
Fortunately, we can handle his concern. The reason is that most of the U.S. welfare state is aimed at the elderly, not the poor, and most immigrants are young. Expenditures on Social Security, Medicare, and the nursing home component of Medicaid vastly exceed expenditures on narrowly defined welfare, food stamps, housing subsidies, and the part of Medicaid aimed at the non-elderly poor. Moreover, one important provision in the 1996 welfare reform law, pushed by Republicans in Congress and reluctantly signed by President Clinton, was a ban on giving welfare benefits to illegal immigrants and a requirement that even legal immigrants wait five years before getting benefits.
Interestingly, even illegal immigrants benefit the U.S. Treasury by paying taxes using fake Social Security numbers. Because the numbers are fake, those who pay them will never receive Social Security based on those taxes and so those taxes are pure profit for the U.S. government. In fact, in 2005, the Social Security Administration’s chief actuary, Stephen C. Goss, estimated that without all the taxes paid on invalid Social Security numbers, “the system’s long-term funding hole over 75 years would be 10 percent deeper.” Even legal immigrants help the Social Security situation, for the simple reason that most are young. A Social Security simulation over a decade ago concluded that if net (legal) immigration were to rise from 900,000 annually to 1.3 million, the Social Security funding gap would fall from 1.92 percent of total payroll to 1.67 percent.
This is from my latest Defining Ideas article, “The Case for More Immigration,” published today by the Hoover Institution.
One of the main concerns voiced by opponents of immigration, especially President Trump and his supporters, is that immigrants will bring increased crime. If we count illegal immigration as a crime, then this is true of illegal immigrants by definition. But the crimes most people worry about are violent crimes like murder, rape, and assault, and crimes against people’s property. In a July 2015 study for the American Immigration Council, Walter Ewing, Daniel E. Martinez, and Ruben G. Rumbaut pointed out that between 1990 and 2013, the foreign-born share of the U.S. population “grew from 7.9 percent to 13.1 percent” and the number of illegal aliens grew from 3.5 million to 11.2 million. And the violent crime rate over those same 23 years? It fell by 48 percent. The property crime rate fell by 41 percent. Moreover, they found, in 2010, 1.6 percent of immigrant males between ages 18 and 39, were in prison, compared to twice that percent, 3.3 percent, of the native-born.
What about the breakdown of crime between legal and illegal immigrants? In a study released this week, political scientist Michelangelo Landgrave of UC Riverside and Alex Nowrasteh of the Cato Institute find that the incarceration rate for illegal immigrants was 756 per 100,000. This is substantially higher than the 364 rate for legal immigrants, but substantially lower than the 1,471 rate for native-born Americans.
Read the whole thing, especially if you want to comment.