Immigrants Can’t Save U.S. Cities by Themselves

September 17, 2012. An op ed by Shikha Dalmia, Bloomberg View. Dalmia is a Detroit-based senior analyst at Reason Foundation.

What is true, contrary to the bellyaching by anti-immigration restrictionists, is that [immigrants] are a net boon – not a burden – for local economies. A recent Standard & Poor’s study found that U.S. cities with a “significant” immigrant population improved their credit rating because even low-wage foreigners pay taxes that help defray the cost of services.

There is also evidence that immigration and growth are strongly correlated. A study by David Dyssegaard Kallick of the New York-based Fiscal Policy Institute examined the experience of the 25 largest metropolitan areas, starting in 1990. He found that wherever there was economic growth, there was immigration, and wherever there was immigration, there was economic growth.

From 1990 to 2000, New York’s economic-growth rate was directly related to an increase in immigrants’ share of the local labor force, Kallick found. They were crucial to the city’s recovery in the 1970s when the declining population was causing its tax base to erode and the crime rate to soar – similar to what Rust Belt cities such as Detroit and Cleveland have been experiencing.

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