Why We’ll Go Bankrupt Without More Immigration

Why We’ll Go Bankrupt Without More Immigration April 14, 2019

Trump’s claim that we can’t let anymore immigrants into the country — white immigrants, that is — because “the country is full” is laughable on its face. But a report from the Brookings Institution goes into great detail on why, if we don’t let more immigrants into the United States, our economy will crash and we’ll go bankrupt.

President Trump’s pronouncement that the U.S. is “full” and that there is no need for attracting future immigrants is exactly the opposite of what our demographic future portends. If anything, the nation is sputtering from historic demographic stagnation. We recently registered the slowest national growth rate in 80 years due to declining natural increase—as births lower and deaths rise. In the near future, we will become increasingly dependent on immigration and racial minorities— particularly young first and second generation Hispanic and Asian Americans—to infuse growth and vitality into our population and our economy.

Census projections make clear that during the first half of the 21st century, our population growth will diminish: there will be less than half the growth in 2040-50 than in 2000-2010 (Figure 1). This decline would occur even more quickly were it not for immigration, which, if it continues at recent levels, will account for most of our national growth after 2030.

This growth slowdown is driven heavily by the aging of our population and an increased mortality rate. As Figure 2 illustrates, the only part of our population that will continue to grow substantially will be the senior population, aged 65 and above, as it subsumes the large baby boom population. Already this decade, seniors will have grown by nearly 40 percent, to be followed by 30 percent more growth in the 2020s. We are headed toward higher age dependency; a stark contrast from the last half of the 20th century when child dependency was more salient. By 2035, there will be more seniors than children for the first time in the nation’s history.

That means we either drastically reduce the Social Security benefits we’ve promised to our senior citizens or drastically raise taxes to keep those benefits going. It also means that the federal government will be starved of revenue, forcing more cuts or more tax increases, or both. We need far more immigrants, not fewer.

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