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We need more immigrants
The brief argument for Immigration
America needs to increase its number of immigrants massively. America has the capacity, size, and need to accommodate a much larger population.
In 2019, Canada admitted 341,000 immigrants as permanent residents. In a country with a population of 38 million, that is just around 1% of the country’s population. In contrast, America let in around 1 million immigrants. With a population of 330 million, that is just 0.3% of our country’s population. America could expand its capacity of immigration to 3 million annually (and ideally much higher than that) and still sit just at Canada’s level of immigration.
The way I see it, there are several main benefits of immigration, both for America, the immigrants, and the countries that immigrants leave:
It increases the size of our national economy
It increases America’s economic competitiveness
It boosts job creation in America
It raises incomes for the immigrants
It promotes a higher standard of living and economic development in countries that immigrants leave
I’ll delve into every benefit in other posts, but for now I want to focus on the first two. Immigration is the single biggest policy tool to increase America’s GDP. According to an Oxford study with Citigroup, two thirds of America’s GDP increase since 2011 has come from immigration. Because the US is a wealthy, developed country, productivity growth (TFP) is low—about 1% every year. If the US wants GDP to grow at 2 or 3% those gains must come from immigration in the absence of a massive productivity growth acceleration. Increasing the number of immigrants is essentially a free way to increase GDP, because it involves removing current restrictions rather than creating new programs.
Now, why does US GDP growth even matter? I see one of the largest benefits being geopolitical. Countries with the largest economies always have the most influence in history. The US ultimately won the cold war because it had the larger economy that could outlast a weaker Soviet economy. Economic growth is the reason China is now seen as a great global power, when it wasn’t 20 years ago. While I don’t see the US collapsing into the shadow of China’s rise in the next 20 years, having a larger economy will certainly let the US compete better through several ways. A larger economy gives the US more power and scope to sanction bad actors and nations, field a larger military, provide more aid to countries threatened by China’s rise, and continue to attract better talent given its size.
America’s competitiveness would also be vastly enhanced by a more open stance on immigration. Immigrants drive America’s innovation, entrepreneurship, technology, and world-beating universities. Immigrants found 30% of American companies, and are two to three times as likely as American-born Americans to start businesses. In 2007, 24 percent of patents had a non-US citizen as the inventor. Openness to immigration allows all types of talent to more easily access the effective institutions the US has to offer. This creates a feedback loop, where talent attracts talent, and immigrants are able to work in places that maximize their productivity.
Economic size and competitiveness are just a couple of the benefits the US experiences from immigration. Massively increasing the immigration numbers in the US would enhance the benefits of economic growth and competitiveness that the US already experiences. Cutting it off would stifle what makes America great.