George W. Bush Institute on "Growth and Immigration" (Matthew Denhart)

Yesterday, George W Bush returned to the public eye to promote massive immigration, saying ( ):

America is a nation of immigrants. Immigrants have helped build the country that we have become, and immigrants can help build a dynamic tomorrow. Not only do immigrants help build our economy, they invigorate our soul. [...] America can be a lawful society and a welcoming society at the same time. As our nation debates the proper course of action relating to immigration, I hope we do so with a benevolent spirit and keep in mind the contribution of immigrants.

He said that at a conference co-sponsored by the George W. Bush Institute and the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas (see that link and immigration banks).

A handout at the event was "Growth and Immigration: A Handbook of Vital Immigration and Economic Growth Statistics", authored by Matthew Denhart of the Institute (PDF: ). Let's take a quick look at that.

The handbook admits that "this book for the most part does not distinguish between illegal and legal immigrants." Which means that some of what they write has to be taken with a very large grain of salt: the economic impact of an immigrant like Andy Grove is quite a bit different from the impact of someone who works in an orange grove. A small number of very productive skilled immigrants might mask the fact that large numbers of unskilled immigrants cost far more than they contribute.

Throughout it all, the handbook treats "immigrants" as the best thing since sliced bread, and Americans as second-class citizens in their own country.

The handbook says:

Although the U.S. attracts the largest share of all immigrants worldwide, it is important to bear in mind that the U.S. is a large country in terms of both geography and population. Thus, when examining the number of immigrants in countries as a percentage of total population, the U.S. no longer ranks at the top. Rather, that award goes to Qatar, the Persian Gulf state where immigrants make up 87% of the population.

Except, of course, those aren't "immigrants": they're guest workers. Qatar has a naturalization rate that's in the same range as Mexico (i.e., very low).


The reason immigrants represent a larger share of the labor force than their share of the population is because they participate in the labor force at a higher rate than natives. In 2011, approximately 67.1% of immigrants 16 years of age and older were in the labor force, compared to only 62.9% of native-born citizens. This is evidence that, by and large immigrants want to work. This allows them to earn a living and helps our economy grow.

Of course, there's also the fact (revealed later in their handbook, but not tied to the point above) that "immigrants" skew younger than citizens. There's also the fact that all those "immigrants" have contributed to statistics such as just 25% of black youth being in the labor force in Jan. 2011. What sort of economic and social impact does that have? Don't expect the George W. Bush Institute to discuss that.

Then, they treat a large labor supply as a good thing:

The growth in the U.S. labor force over the past decade would have been much smaller if not for immigrants.

Between 2003 and 2012, the U.S. labor force added slightly more than 8.4 million workers. More than 4.4 million of these new workers were immigrants, while around 4 million of the new workers were nativeborn citizens.

This means that more than half of the growth in new workers over the past decade is attributable to immigrants. This is remarkable, especially considering that immigrants averaged only around 11% to 13%of the total U.S. population during those years...

...In order for an economy to grow, it needs workers, and lots of them. In 2011, the U.S. had approximately 140 million people over the age of 16 who were employed.


Not only are immigrants more likely to participate in the labor force and be employed, they are also more likely than native-born citizens to create their own jobs and to work in the private sector.

In 2011, 83.5% of immigrants were private wage and salary workers, compared to only 77.7% of natives. Furthermore, 7.7% of immigrants were self-employed in an unincorporated business, compared to only 5.9% of natives. That immigrants are self-employed
at a higher rate than natives is significant because it indicates that immigrants often create their own jobs
and exhibit characteristics of entrepreneurship.

Native-born workers do constitute a larger share of workers in one specific employment sector: government jobs. While many government jobs are certainly necessary and beneficial to our country, these jobs must be funded by taxpayers. Private-sector jobs, on
the other hand, are self-sustaining. Therefore, our economy grows more when workers are in the private sector, rather than working for the government.

Regarding the first paragraph, see the note above. The other two paragraphs are misleading (of course). The "private wage/salary" figure includes sole proprietors (dentists, doctors, etc.) who work for their own corporations. And, the "self-employed" figure includes those who aren't entrepreneurs: programmers working long contracts and construction and farm workers who are paid on a 1099 basis.

Then, they promote yet another bad thing as good:

Every year immigrants living in the U.S. send billions of dollars abroad in the form of remittances. In 2009, American residents sent $48.3 billion in remittances to people in other countries, the most of any other country in the world.

Remittances are often sent to family members back in an immigrant’s home country, and they are a crucial source of income for many people around the world. In fact, total worldwide remittances to developing countries equaled $307 billion in 2009. This is more than 2.5 times the amount of total worldwide official development assistance sent to developing countries in 2009 ($120 billion) and nearly as much money as developing countries received in foreign direct investment ($359 billion). The World Bank notes that remittances constitute up to 10% of GDP in many developing countries. And these dollars are not wasted; rather, research shows that they help reduce poverty and “lead to increased investments in health, education, and small businesses.” By working in the U.S., immigrants help grow the American economy, while helping the economies of other countries to grow too.

What that doesn't mention is discussed in the entries on the remittances page; if you trust anything in the two paragraphs above, go see those entries. It needs to also be noted that the Federal Reserve and their member banks get a percentage of those money flows.


By contrast, the population pyramid of U.S. immigrants reflects a more ideal distribution. It shows the largest portion of the population is between the ages of 25 and 55.32 The reason for this is that immigrants typically come to the U.S. in middle age, meaning that immigrants have smaller proportions of their population that are composed of young and old individuals. Workers are their most productive in middle age, and the constant inflow of middle-aged immigrants helps grow the economy and care for the country’s elderly.

I shouldn't have to note that those "immigrants" who are now young will one day get old. Since many of them are low-skilled (and working in dangerous jobs under less-than-ideal conditions), that has very serious long-term implications for the U.S. Don't expect the George W. Bush Institute to discuss that however.

The above isn't even half of their handbook. If you'd like a more in-depth discussion of the full handbook, see the underwrite page.