Immigration in the Hoosier State has been growing since 1990, accounting for 25 percent of its population growth between 2000 and 2015.
To Hoosiers who are concerned about the growing wave of immigrants, the data may seem particularly troubling — especially if widely accepted views on immigrants’ use of welfare are taken into account. But according to Ball State University's Center for Business and Economic Research, many popular conceptions regarding immigration don’t match reality.
Immigrants Keep Us Going
It is no secret that native population growth in America is in decline. That is especially true in Indiana, where population projections seem troubling, particularly once we hit the year 2030. But with the influx of immigrants, the negative consequences of the decline in the overall population are being slowly addressed — especially when it comes to employment problems.
In a study titled Fiscal, Economic, & Social Effects of Immigration in the Hoosier State, Ball State University researchers learned that immigrants have steadily contributed to the state’s social welfare through income, consumption, property, and payroll taxes. Additionally, these same immigrants “tend to use fewer [government-backed] services than the native-born population, and receive less benefit when they do use services,” researchers concluded.
In other words, they keep our economy going, helping native-born Americans prosper.
The study provides an in-depth look at the data, helping us see that some of the most widely believed “truths” about immigration in America are nothing but fear-fueled misconceptions.
Most importantly, the study discovered that immigrants do assimilate, and that while many are at the lower end of the educational spectrum, immigrants are also found at the highest end, with only 30 percent of the foreign-born population having less than a high school diploma and another 30 percent having a college degree or higher in 2016 alone. During the same year, only 24 percent of the native-born population had a college degree or higher.
For immigrants who arrived between 2010 and 2016, the numbers are even more promising as nearly 50 percent have a college degree or higher.
Another area in which immigrants actually fared much better than the native-born was in welfare use.
According to the study, only 15 percent of immigrants get Social Security benefits, making them less likely to report having any income from sources other than work than native-born residents. As a matter of fact, researchers found that 32 percent of native-born households obtain income from Social Security Insurance, more than double the number of immigrant households that do.
And while a “slightly higher percentage … of foreign-born households receive” Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (a.k.a. food stamps) benefits, researchers stated, “foreign-born Hoosiers contributed $1.6 billion to federal taxes, $815 million to Social Security, $217.5 million to Medicare, and $702 million to state and local taxes” in 2014 alone.
And if that wasn’t enough, the study also uncovered that immigrants in Indiana are more likely to be employed than native-born Hoosiers.
Free to Grow
As AIER Senior Fellow Richard M. Ebeling wrote recently, America “has meant hope, opportunity, and freedom for tens of millions of people over the last two and half centuries.” And as the U.S. continues to fight its unwinnable War on Drugs, Central American countries continue to deal with the consequences, with gangs growing in influence and becoming more and more violent toward the local population.
Feeling the pressure and seeing their loved ones die, Central Americans pack up and travel north, hoping to find the freedom they wish they had at home. But as they arrive, many struggle to be let in, especially those who suffered persecution in their home countries.
But as the evidence demonstrates, immigrants aren’t detrimental to the economy as many believe. Additionally, they also provide a support system to the very government that has, oftentimes, made it nearly impossible for them to become productive in the country. If anything, this shows that states, and not the federal government, should have the power to set their own immigration policies. If this were the case, regions that suffer due to declining population growth could benefit greatly from letting more people in without having to impose their own immigration policies on other states.
As with other matters, decentralization could be key in making things better — not only because it would benefit immigrants who want to move here to work, but also because Americans would reap the benefits of a prosperous economy.