In Baltimore, the foreign-born population is 8.0%, both non-citizens and naturalized citizens, while the contribution of immigrants to the economy is 9.0%. Immigrants help fuel the economy by filling jobs that Americans don’t want, and by creating new jobs for Americans. The Fiscal Policy Institute of New York has shown that the immigrant contribution to the economy is larger than its share of the population. This is true for several reasons.
It may surprise you to learn that immigrants are more than twice as likely to start a business as compared to native-born Americans, according to the Partnership for a New American Economy. These entrepreneurs are job generators and can help fuel our economy by employing more Americans. On the Fortune 500 list, 40% of the companies were founded by an immigrant or the child of an immigrant. Companies like Google, eBay, Kohl’s, AT&T, and Kraft would not exist if it were not for foreign-born entrepreneurs.
As you may already know, immigrant workers also help the economy by occupying labor-intensive industries such as construction, travel, transportation, and retail that employers tend to have a difficult time filling with native-born workers. Over the past decade, immigrants have filled these positions, and some economists argue that if that had not been the case, prices for such services would have risen while wages would have lowered.
These foreign-born workers aren’t just “taking jobs,” they are being sought after and hired. The United States federal government makes it difficult to hire an immigrant due to several strict policies and regulations, but American companies are doing this every day. To ensure that immigrants are not taking the place of American citizens, companies must prove that there is not a qualified American who can fill the position. While these limits curb immigrants from “taking jobs,” American companies continue to prove that there is not a qualified American to fill their position, and then hire employees from abroad.
In fact, due to the deficit of American-born workers in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields, it is necessary to fill these positions with immigrants. It is projected that by 2018 in America, there will be a deficit of 230,000 workers within the STEM fields. Foreign-born individuals with higher education degrees in the STEM fields are needed, since there are not enough qualified Americans to take them.
Currently the lack of workers in high-skilled occupations is already affecting our immigration trends. “In Maryland, 27% of scientists, 21% of health care practitioners, and 19% of mathematicians and computer specialists are foreign-born” according to the report, The Impact of Immigrants in Maryland.
Since many Americans do not want to take labor-intensive jobs, and do not tend to pursue higher education degrees in the STEM fields, foreign-born workers are highly complementary to the native-born labor force by taking those positions Americans can’t and won’t fill. In addition, America’s workforce is aging, and more working-age adults are needed to pay income taxes and generally contribute to the weak economy. New workers are needed to both fill positions, and contribute back to the community through income taxes. Fortunately, immigrants in the United States tend to be concentrated in the prime working age, between 16 and 64 years old.
Foreign-born adults complement America’s workforce by taking difficult-to-fill positions, and they help to build the economy in Baltimore by paying income taxes during their prime working years. Economic growth is tied to the labor force, and foreign-born workers are clearly one element that can help lead Baltimore to greater economic prosperity.