Immigration, education and the U.S. economy

Immigration remains a heated topic, including what effect it has on Michigan’s economy.

Between 1892 and 1954, approximately 12 million people migrated to America with the hope of freedom, economic success and a better standard of living. Since then immigration numbers have fluctuated, but the past decade has seen an increase of about 10 million.

JRN 300 Infographic

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Michigan’s immigrant population amounts to 6.0% which includes international students who have temporary residence in the U.S. This is significant for the state of Michigan because approximately 23,000 foreign-born students attending Michigan colleges and universities.

How does this affect the economy?

A series of studies performed by the American Enterprise Institute showed that immigrants have a significantly positive impact on the U.S. economy. One reason for this could be the increased demand for STEM—science, technology, engineering and mathematics—jobs. As the world advances its technologies, there is an increasing market for STEM jobs, and international students tend to major in these areas more than U.S. citizens.

In 2009, more than 40 percentof STEM graduates were foreign-born. If the studies performed by AEI are correct, this means that for every 100 foreign-born STEM graduates, more than 250 jobs are created for U.S. citizens. Thus, the argument can be made that immigration reform could have a positive effect on the economy. In fact, many don’t know that America’s foreign-born business owners have been contributing to the economy for more than a decade.

Immigrant owned businesses make up 15.8% of Michigan’s workforce. In 2002, $5.1 billion was made from over 15,000 Asian-owned businesses that fall into this category. Latino-owned businesses came in second with $3.2 billion.

Similarly, there is “a significant population of [Latino] migrant workers that travels to Michigan during harvest season,” said Rubén Martinez, Director of the Julian Samora Research Institute. Michigan agriculture is dependent on these workers to help maintain our food resources.



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