The United States is facing a demographics crisis. Simply put, we’re getting old. The average American is ten years older than average Americans were in 1970. We’re aging as a nation because we’re not having babies at the replacement level of 2.1 children per couple. The ratio varies considerably by race, but even Hispanics who were having 2.35 children per couple in 2010 now have only 1.88. Non-Hispanic Whites are averaging 1.55. If we close the borders and continue along this path, there will eventually be too many people over age 65 for the working population to support. Click To Tweet The obvious solution is to have more children, but convincing people to have babies isn't easy. Japan and South Korea pay people to have children, yet their birth rates are still just 1.3 and .81, respectively.
In addition to having too high a ratio of older people to support, there are other problems associated with an aging population. Increased healthcare expenses and a shortage of healthcare workers are already a problem, and the economy will have difficulty growing with a shrinking population. As American companies increasingly find it challenging to fill positions, they will start filling them overseas through remote work and physically moving offices and factories.
So, what’s the answer? Immigration. In the late 1800s, the percentage of foreign-born people in the U.S. hit a high of around 15%. It’s currently about 14.6%. The immigration boom happening at the Southern Border is real. It’s also a good thing. Letting people who want to work in the country and allowing them to support our aging population with their payroll and sales taxes is the easiest way for Millennials and Gen Z to have the benefits of Social Security and Medicare available for them when they retire.
The U.S. is fortunate in that it is still able to attract immigrants. Some countries in Eastern Europe have lost as much as 26% of their population since the early ’90s. Our overall population is not yet decreasing, but for the first time in American history, the population of non-Hispanic Whites shrank from 197 million in 2010 to 193 million in 2021. If it were not for minority births and immigration, the U.S., too, would be shrinking.
Increasing Immigration, however, has the support of only 27% of Americans, whereas decreasing it is supported by 38%. Most people who say they don’t support increased immigration say it’s because of the economic costs associated with absorbing new immigrants. Economically, however, having young people move here and have children is a bargain. Immigrants are younger and healthier than the general population and thus contribute far more economically to the U.S. than they take. Even low-wage immigrants with low levels of education help our economy. Industries like agriculture, construction and apparel would lose a third of their workforces without immigration. The lack of workers to fill entry level, low skilled jobs is also fueling inflation.
Most demographers and business leaders believe immigration is a net good for the country. Click To Tweet The political right doesn’t agree. In Europe, countries with right-wing governments and the most significant population declines tend to be most fervently anti-immigration. In the U.S., the political right gets much of its support from rural districts experiencing job losses due to globalization and urbanization. In these areas, immigrants are viewed as a threat to jobs. Interestingly, immigrants are saving jobs in rural districts by filling low-wage agricultural jobs that native-born residents don’t want to fill. If this flow of workers were to be stopped, farmers would have to grow fewer labor-intensive crops like fruits and vegetables and raise fewer farm animals due to the lack of workers.
Not all conservative areas are against immigration. States like Michigan and Ohio with older industrial cities, are actively recruiting immigrants to fill jobs and contribute to their tax bases. Republican Senators like Marco Rubio and Republican members of Congress who represent high-immigration districts in California, Texas and South Florida are generally pro-immigration because they see how immigrants contribute to their communities firsthand. Once people get to know individual immigrants, their views tend to become more accepting.
Unfortunately, we don’t often hear politicians on the left or right sing the praises of immigration. Even pro-immigration Democrats often talk about securing the border first before addressing immigration. This feeds the notion that the U.S. is somehow under attack by immigrants. The reason we have high levels of illegal immigration is that the legal immigration system is broken. We can’t even agree to give DACA recipients – immigrants brought here as children – permanent residency. Instead, we force foreigners who earn U.S. college degrees to leave the country after they graduate.
Speaking up about the benefits of immigration and having positive interactions with immigrants can slowly shift public perception. Click To Tweet ThinkNow was founded by an immigrant and the son of an immigrant. We’ve created jobs for native-born Americans in California, Indiana, Wisconsin, Georgia, Connecticut, and Nevada. Welcoming the next generation of immigrants to the country will ensure our children and grandchildren have access to the American Dream we’ve been fortunate enough to have experienced.