Immigrants: Strength for our Economy

By Amanda Watson, IINE Development Intern

In these troubled economic times with persistently high unemployment rates, the availability of jobs is at the top of all of our minds. While immigrants are often blamed for taking jobs, recent reports show that in fact immigration has historically led to job creation and continues to contribute to the strength of the American economy. A June 2011 report by the Partnership for a New American Economy found that more than 40 percent of all Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or their children. A separate study by the Kaufmann Foundation found that immigrants are more than twice as likely to start a business than native-born Americans.

These trends have not gone unnoticed by elected officials. At a recent conference on Michigan’s economic future, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said:

We [New York] are a city that welcomes immigrants. Our experience in New York has been that those neighborhoods with more diverse (populations) create more jobs.

Other cities also have stories of economic revival led by immigration, such as Lewiston, Maine. From the 1970s onward, the former mill town faced a shrinking population, high unemployment, and economic stagnation until a family of Somali refugees came to the town in 2001 and encouraged further immigration to the area. By 2009, 4,000 new immigrants had arrived from Somalia and several other African countries. They opened shops, restaurants, and small businesses that led to economic growth. In Lewiston, the influx of immigrants also helped to supplement an aging population—a problem common to other places in northern New England—replacing the working and youth populations, helping to keep schools open, and supporting the state’s economy and welfare system.

As demonstrated by the cases of Lewiston and New York, immigrants bring new perspectives and skills that strengthen our economy and create jobs. We at the International Institute recognize the vital contribution of immigrants to our economy, and promote entrepreneurship through job training and programs such as our Bridges to Business program and Rooting New Americans agricultural initiative. We are proud to support the role that refugees and immigrants play in revitalizing our communities and in strengthening America’s economic future.

Photo used under Creative Commons license, courtesy Tim Pannell/Corbis

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