Mar 12, 2019 - Politics & Policy

The U.S. industries dependent on immigrants

Data: New American Economy; Chart: Chris Canipe/Axios
Data: New American Economy; Chart: Chris Canipe/Axios

Industries in the U.S. that provide food, shelter, clothing and health care often rely on the labor of immigrants — those on work visas, brought here as kids or in the country illegally, according to new data given exclusively to Axios from New American Economy (NAE), a group that supports immigration.

Why it matters: House Democrats are resuming the fight over immigration issues with the reintroduction of the Dream Act, to give legal status to immigrants who came to the U.S., illegally as children.

Studies by NAE have found immigrants almost universally create a net benefit in every state's economy, Andrew Lim, director of quantitative research at NAE, told Axios.

  • 14% of nurses in the U.S. are immigrants, as well as close to a quarter of health aids, the study found.
  • In New York, 80% of the limo and taxi drivers seen all over NYC are immigrants.
  • In California immigrants make up more than three quarters of agriculture workers.
  • More than a quarter of physicians and surgeons in Michigan are immigrants as are around 15% of chefs and cooks in Nebraska.
  • Even in rural areas of the U.S. where there are generally fewer immigrants, those that are there often play an important role in education. Immigrants make up just under 20% of post-secondary teachers in Wisconsin and South Carolina.

The other side: The Trump administration often cites a well-known study by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine that found that immigrants cost the government a maximum of $300 billion a year.

  • Foreign-born people often have lower wages and use more benefits than their taxes pay for. But the study also found that the long-term economic impact of immigration was generally positive.

Be smart: Demographic trends forecast a future where a much smaller working-age population carries the burden of a much larger elderly population. Immigrants could be important to maintaining American economic growth.

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