Immigration at Near-Record Highs: A Net Positive for the US

Immigration has been a contentious issue in the United States since at least the 1840s when waves of Irish immigrants arrived to escape famine. Their arrival was met with racist backlash, and many were deported back to Ireland with little more than the clothes on their backs. Anti-immigrant sentiment shifted to anti-Chinese in the 1880s and anti-Italian in the 1920s. Despite the pro-immigration inscription on the Statue of Liberty, the U.S. has never been particularly welcoming to immigrants. This is despite the fact that 97% of Americans trace their ancestry to somewhere other than the U.S., and only 2.9% of Americans are of Native American descent.

Current Levels of Immigration

Immigrants comprise 13.6% of the total U.S. population, the highest since a record high of 14.8% in 1890. Anti-immigrant sentiment and policies from the 1920s through the 1960s slowed immigration, but it has been increasing steadily since then.

According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the total number of legal immigrants admitted to the U.S. in fiscal year 2022 was 1,051,033. This is down from 1,210,069 in fiscal year 2021 but still represents a significant number of people coming to the U.S. each year. The number of detentions of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border also remains near record highs.

Aging U.S. Population

The U.S. population is aging, and the birth rate is declining. The number of non-Hispanic White Americans decreased in real numbers for the first time in U.S. history from 2010 to 2020. The reason for this is simple. The non-Hispanic White population in the U.S. is, on average, 44.5 years old, and they are not having enough children to offset natural decline. The average age of newly arrived legal and undocumented immigrants is approximately 31 years old, and they are more likely to have children. Without immigration and the U.S.-born children of immigrants, the population of the United States would be shrinking.

Benefits of Immigration for the Economy

A study by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine found that immigrants positively impact the U.S. economy. Immigrants are motivated to be self-sufficient and often come to the U.S. for job opportunities, filling gaps in the labor market, especially in sectors that face labor shortages.

Immigrants also have a history of contributing to American entrepreneurship. They are more likely to start businesses, creating jobs and stimulating economic development. High-profile companies like Google, Apple, and Tesla were founded by immigrants or the children of immigrants, showcasing the innovation and drive that immigrants can bring to the American economy.

Public Services

Immigrants, whether documented or undocumented, pay taxes in various forms, including income, property, and sales taxes. These tax contributions bolster government revenue, helping to fund essential public services, such as education, healthcare, and infrastructure. The overall youthfulness of immigrants also decreases their healthcare costs. Public services used by recently arrived immigrants are paid for by the tax contributions of working immigrants and second-generation immigrants, who are among the strongest fiscal and economic contributors in the U.S. Furthermore, studies have shown that immigrants use public services at lower rates than native-born citizens.

While Baby Boomers and the Silent Generation are the least likely to support immigration, they have immigrants to thank for maintaining the Social Security and Medicare trust funds with their payroll taxes.

Culture & Innovation

American culture is immigrant culture. Everything from apple pie and coffee to hot dogs and beer was brought to the U.S. by immigrants. In addition to their culinary contributions, immigrants have profoundly influenced Hollywood, music and the fine arts. This enriched American culture stimulates innovation. A study found that “technology areas (in the U.S.) with higher levels of foreign-born expertise experienced much faster patent growth between 1940 and 2000, in terms of both quality and quantity, than otherwise equivalent technology areas.” The space program (German rocket scientists), the internet (Nigerian refugee Philip Emeagwali, who created a formula that allowed a large number of computers to communicate at once) and a myriad of innovations in other industries were made possible by immigrants.


The U.S. has successfully integrated immigrants into society since its founding, despite the objections of isolationists. Over time, immigrants and their descendants have become integral to the American economy by boosting the labor force, starting businesses, paying taxes and raising families. Evidence suggests that a more welcoming and inclusive approach to immigration can be a powerful force for progress and prosperity.

In addition to the economic and demographic benefits, immigration makes the U.S. qualitatively and quantitatively a better, more vibrant, and dynamic place to live, with new ideas, perspectives, and traditions enriching our culture.

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SBA 8(a) Program Now Requires Individual Social Disadvantage Narrative

The Small Business Administration (SBA) recently made significant changes to the requirements for establishing socially disadvantaged status in the 8(a) Business Development Program. The SBA 8(a) program, which has been in operation since 1978, provides participating small businesses with training, technical assistance, and contracting opportunities through set-aside and sole-source awards. The recent changes to the program were prompted by a July 2023 court ruling that found that the SBA's previous practice of presuming social disadvantage for certain racial and ethnic groups was unconstitutional.

The case that prompted the change stems from a lawsuit filed by Ultima, a small business government contractor based in Tennessee owned by a non-Hispanic White woman ineligible for 8(a) contracts. The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee ruled in her favor and overturned the SBA’s use of presumed racial and ethnic disadvantage to qualify applicants. The opinion relies partly on the Supreme Court's recent ruling striking down affirmative action in college admissions.

The new requirements mandate all 8(a) participants whose eligibility would have relied upon the presumption of social disadvantage due to their belonging to historically marginalized groups to submit a narrative about their personal social disadvantages. The narrative should explain how the individual has experienced significant obstacles to success in business, education, or employment due to their race, ethnicity, gender, or other factors.

Impact of Changes to the SBA 8(a) Program

The changes to the 8(a) program's social disadvantage requirements are a significant development for small businesses seeking to participate and, for some, a barrier. It will be interesting to see how this change affects interest in the program and federal contracting, which is already perceived as challenging by small businesses.

New 8(a) applications have been temporarily suspended while the SBA reviews the new requirements. Businesses in the program are urged to prepare a social disadvantage narrative to remain eligible for future awards.

Here are some of the elements required for the social disadvantage narrative:

  • Must be completed by each principal of the business
  • Should be specific and provide concrete examples of how the individual has experienced social disadvantage
  • Incidents cited must have had a negative effect on the individual’s business, employment or educational prospects
  • Incidents of bias must have occurred in the United States

What’s Next?

In our increasingly multicultural society, we must ensure that socially and economically disadvantaged businesses have a fair shot at winning federal procurement contracts and that the process to do so remains accessible to all. This is essential to leveling the playing field and creating a more equitable economy.

The SBA has been a crucial partner to small businesses in their efforts to compete and grow. That commitment was reiterated recently by SBA Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman who said, “…the SBA and Biden-Harris Administration remain committed to supporting this crucial program and the small business owners who have helped drive America’s strong economic growth.”

We hope the SBA reopens the registration process soon so that the program's benefits continue to be extended to those who have faced significant obstacles due to their race, ethnicity, gender, or other factors.

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What is Delaying Our Electric Vehicle Adoption?

100% electric vehicles are fantastic. They’re zippy, require less maintenance, save money on gas and are generally pretty cool. Given these attributes, it might seem logical to assume that every new car buyer would opt for an electric vehicle (EV). Yet only 5.8% of vehicles sold in the U.S. in 2022 were electric, and 94.2% of brand-new cars sold last year were not. Why?

As part of our Sustainability Study released in April 2023, ThinkNow conducted a nationally representative quantitative survey of 2,050 Americans and probed their reasons for buying or rejecting EVs. Here is what we found:

Cost Is the Main Barrier to Electric Vehicle Adoption

Cost is the single largest barrier to EV adoption. The lowest cost internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle currently on the market has an MSRP of $17,650. Over two dozen ICE vehicles are available for under $25,000. Meanwhile, General Motors announced that it was discontinuing the lowest-cost EV on the market, the Chevy Bolt (MSRP $25,600), in favor of producing higher profit-margin pickup trucks. Tax credits for EV purchases help, but they're limited to U.S. produced vehicles, and the low-cost options on that list are scarce. For EV adoption to take off, it has to be accessible to all car buyers, not just high-earning early adopters.

Inadequate Charging Infrastructure Limits Accessibility

After price, charging is the next big barrier to purchasing EVs. Thirty-four percent of respondents said they wouldn't purchase an EV because they do not have charging available at home or work. This aligns with the 36% of American households living in rental properties less likely to have on-site charging than single-family homes. Public charging is part of the solution, but the availability of public charging varies considerably by city and state. Even in states with relatively high levels of EV penetration, like California, there are cities without a single non-Tesla public charging station (I'm looking at you Mammoth Lakes, CA). The U.S. currently has 56,256 charging stations with around 147,700 individual charging ports. Still, McKinsey & Company estimates that if the U.S. wants to reach the goal outlined in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act recommending that 50% of all vehicles sold yearly be zero-emission by 2030, it will likely need 1.2 million public and 28 million private EV charging stations. It's important to note that this number falls short of what is required for achieving 100% EV adoption.

Lack of Information Perpetuates Misinformation

The following three barriers to EV adoption in our survey were "I don't know enough about them," "They take too long to charge" and "I don't think they're good for the environment." These three issues can be countered by better communicating the benefits. EV owners spend a lot less time charging their vehicles than people spend at gas stations. Most non-EV owners don't realize EVs typically charge overnight 2-3 times a week. Plugging and unplugging an EV takes less than 30 seconds. So EV owners spend fewer weekly minutes physically charging than ICE vehicle owners spend standing in front of gas pumps.

EVs are also unequivocally better for the environment than gas-powered vehicles. Most arguments suggesting otherwise are premised on faulty assumptions. One argument states that the electricity produced to charge EVs is worse for the environment than gasoline. While coal is still responsible for about 20% of U.S. power production, it is rapidly being replaced by wind and solar. Even accounting for current coal and natural gas-powered electricity emissions, research shows that an EV is typically responsible for lower levels of greenhouse gases (GHGs) than an average new gasoline car. Battery manufacturing is also frequently cited as being bad for the environment because it takes energy to mine Lithium and manufacture batteries. Here's a comparison of a typical gas-powered car's lifetime greenhouse gas emissions and a 300-mile range EV.

Perceptions of EVs also vary by generation and ethnicity. Communication campaigns must address knowledge gaps within multicultural segments to ensure the successful adoption of electric vehicles (EVs). These communities may have limited exposure to information about EVs compared to other racial groups. For instance, our multicultural research indicates that Asian Americans, in particular, are more prone to experiencing range anxiety compared to other groups which may make them less likely to adopt EVs.

EVs Drive Green Transportation

Making EVs more affordable and expanding charging infrastructure will help accelerate the transition to a greener transportation system. Clear and accurate communication about EV charging times and their environmental benefits is also essential in dispelling misconceptions and encouraging broader acceptance.

Policies must consider that renters and people of all income levels and ethnicities buy cars. EVs can't be playthings for the well-to-do and pipe dreams for everyone else. Addressing these challenges and promoting EV adoption is crucial for achieving the sustainable and environmentally friendly transportation system the U.S. and the world needs.

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Honoring the Fallen: Government Agencies Must Leverage Data to Strengthen Veterans' Mental Health

Memorial Day is a federal holiday intended to pay respect to our country's fallen heroes. However, for many, Memorial Day is a personal experience that lasts longer than 24 hours and is much more than a BBQ and pool party.

My Memorial Day began at 9 pm ET on May 5th, 2006, with a satellite phone call from my husband, a Team Leader in the Army deployed to Hillah, Iraq. He said, "Hey babe, the worst happened today." I am an Army Veteran, so I knew exactly what that meant.

The Battalion was due home in less than a week. They had received their campaign medals, and unit and team photos were taken. Back home, family and friends were getting ready to celebrate their return to Fort Bragg with "welcome home banners."

My husband's replacement, Captain M (using initials for family privacy), arrived in the country and was briefed on the current efforts in and around Hillah. Captain M asked if he could borrow the Team to take him "out of the wire" and show him their area of operation. They mounted up in their HMMVVs, leaving my husband behind. For 30 minutes, he listened in horror over the radio as his Team Sergeant, Master Sergeant S, ran over an IED and called for medivacs. My husband and another officer took off to the blast site and saw his team sergeant being loaded into a Blackhawk helicopter. Master Sergeant S bled out on the way to the CASH (combat hospital). Two others died instantly. Captain M was flown to Germany expecting to survive but later succumbed to his injuries.

What struck me the most was that these mothers and wives I knew and grew close to would have a government official or Army Chaplain knock on their doors within the next 4-24 hours to be told their soldier had been killed. Moreso, these mothers and wives would receive Mother's Day Cards and flowers a few days later as they laid their sons and husbands to rest. I would meet them in Arlington at section 60, but only after I returned from Fort Bragg to help as my husband escorted their personal effects to Mortuary Affairs.

As the soldiers, loaded with all their gear, walked off the plane into the "Green Ramp," I desperately searched for my husband. They were all battle-worn, solemn, and still in shock. They weren't greeted with cheers or celebrations, only tears, hugs, and a sudden realization that, as Army Reservists, they would go home to familiar strangers and weren't particularly ready to pretend that the last few days had never happened. Yet, the bond of these brothers and sisters who had just spent twelve months in battle would not be broken.

My family and I would hike down from Fort Myer every Memorial Day in Section 60 in Arlington Cemetery and lay flowers on three friends laid to rest there. We could tell others had also visited by small personal items left on the headstones. As the years passed and the conflict continued overseas, Section 60 became the final resting place for over 900 servicemembers.

Veterans are underresourced

In total, we lost 7,057 U.S. military service members in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. I wish I could say that was the end of that sad statistic, but it's not. Over 30,000 active-duty personnel and veterans who served in the post 9/11 wars have since died by suicide and about 76 percent of U.S. veteran and active service survey respondents in a recent study report having experienced post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of their military service after 9/11.

While the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is responsible for providing healthcare and other services to veterans, many veterans have reported difficulties accessing the help they need. Veterans are sometimes turned away from VA hospitals or clinics because their needs aren't deemed urgent, whereas others struggle to obtain appointments for care due to a shortage of mental health professionals. Burdened by red tape, many veterans no longer have the fight to tackle the bureaucracy obstructing access to mental health care.

Data-driven wraparound services for veterans are needed

The VA has made efforts to address these issues by increasing funding for mental health services and hiring more mental health professionals. However, more must be done to ensure veterans have access to the care they need. This could include expanding the number of VA facilities and mental health professionals, conducting continuous market research surveys among veterans to gauge whether they can access the services they need and the effectiveness of those services, and increasing awareness about the importance of seeking treatment for mental health conditions. Equally as important is dismantling the stigma around mental health, particularly for men and minorities, who frequently encounter societal biases about seeking care.

The sacrifices made by these veterans should not go unrecognized, and we owe it to them to ensure they receive the care and support they need to live healthy and fulfilling lives. (If you're a veteran experiencing a mental health crisis or concerned about one, qualified responders at the Veterans Crisis Line can help. Click the link or dial 988 and press 1.)

Never Forget

May 25th is when I turn off the news and social media and tune out all the world's nonsense. I think of a young man or woman's sacrifice and those who grieved over their loss. I think of the Gold Star families and the service members who made it home but are still lost in that moment in battle. It's a day that I put aside all personal struggles, gains, and aspirations of the future and think of our fallen heroes that died in a battle far away from home to protect our nation's peace.

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The End of COVID-era SNAP Benefits is Impacting Vulnerable Communities

What’s Happening?

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress added emergency funds to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to help families facing food insecurity resulting from the economic slowdown. That emergency funding ran out at the end of February 2023. This means that around 30 million Americans will receive less money in their EBT cards at a time when inflation is wreaking havoc on food prices. The end of enhanced SNAP benefits is compounded by the concurrent end of other relief programs that helped with housing and healthcare costs.

Who’s Affected?

Some states had already stopped the enhanced COVID benefits, but SNAP recipients in 32 states, Washington D.C., Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands will see their benefits reduced this month. The enhanced benefits gave participants the maximum allowable benefit if they qualified for SNAP. The change will bring participants back to amounts tied to household income and will average about $6 per day per person. The steepest decrease will hit individuals who, during COVID, qualified for the minimum SNAP benefit and were receiving $281 per month and will now only see a benefit of $23. Since the reductions are per person in the household, larger households will see bigger overall reductions. Seniors on Social Security may be surprised to learn that the recent 8.7% cost of living increase counts towards their SNAP eligibility and reduces benefits further. Sixty-five percent of SNAP participants are households with children and one in three food stamp households is headed by an African American. The reduction will, therefore, be disproportionately felt in low-income communities of color.

Lack of Information

While the Biden administration is scheduled to declare the end of the COVID pandemic on May 11, 2023, the SNAP program expired on February 28th because Congress passed the Consolidated Appropriations Act which revamped that program. Many recipients, however, are unaware of, or don’t understand, the changes they’ll see in their March benefits. The different deadlines for the end of COVID era benefits add to the confusion. This will likely lead to families being caught off-guard by the reductions, leaving them scrambling to fill the hole in their food budgets.

Who’s Picking Up the Slack?

A 2019 study found that families whose SNAP benefits were reduced or cut off were more likely to experience food, healthcare and energy insecurity. Affected individuals must now turn to state and county agencies and nonprofits to make ends meet. Some states, like New Jersey, passed legislation to increase state-level food assistance, but most have not. This will force most affected individuals to lean on food banks already struggling due to the recent inflation-fueled rise in food costs and lower-than-expected donations.

Next Steps for SNAP

Ideally, the SNAP reductions would have been made more gradually. That said, some steps should be taken to reduce the impact. The Federal Government has an opportunity to address SNAP benefits in the upcoming Farm Bill, and states that have yet to pass legislation to fill the shortage can either address food insecurity directly or consider how reduced SNAP funds are affecting household budgets when discussing housing and healthcare subsidies. Hunger and poor nutrition don’t exist in isolation, and there will be increased societal costs if they aren’t mitigated.

The plight of hungry Americans isn’t always visible to those in a position to help. In addition to passing emergency funding, there needs to be increased awareness of the problem among Americans who may be able to donate to their local food banks and among businesses who can direct their 2023 charitable giving to non-profits tackling hunger.

State and federal agencies should also better communicate available services to people in need through outdoor, online, radio and television PSAs. There is a silver lining in that the Consolidated Appropriations Act added funds for summer nutrition to the National School Lunch Program. Vulnerable kids will at least be able to rely on those meals. Ideally, seniors and others affected will also get the help they need.

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3 Helpful Small Business Tips for Winning Federal Government Contracts

The U.S. federal government is the largest purchaser of goods and services in the world. For small businesses negatively impacted by the pandemic over the past two years, this may offer a glimmer of hope as many attempt to pivot to stay afloat. While several businesses were forced to close due to losses, new businesses were formed by laid-off or dissatisfied workers.

But new firms are more vulnerable to economic swings. (more…)

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SBA 8(a) Firms Poised to Fuel Post-Pandemic Recovery

The American economy depends on jobs created by small businesses, which account for 64% of new jobs created every year. Some of the best-run U.S. small businesses are those participating in the Small Business Administration’s 8(a) program. The annual review required to maintain eligibility in the program can seem onerous to some, but it ensures participating firms are adequately capitalized and operating in a stable manner.

An annual business plan review is beneficial to all companies, but for 8(a) firms, the mandate prompts them to align their efforts with changes in the market to ensure they have a plan to respond. (more…)

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