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This paper uses the 3.44 million households headed by unlawful immigrants, rather than the unlawful immigrant population as a whole, as the basis of its analysis. By using the household as the unit of analysis, Heritage follows the procedure employed by the National Research Council. Since many variables are not available at the individual level, analysis at the household level is methodologically simpler.
The accounting framework used in the present analysis is the same framework employed by the National Research Council (NRC) of the National Academy of Sciences in its study of the fiscal impact of immigration, The New Americans. Following the NRC framework, the present study:
To be accurate, any fiscal analysis must adjust for the underreporting of benefits. This has been done in prior studies; for example, the National Research Council’s study of the fiscal costs of immigration, The New Americans, made a similar adjustment for such underreporting.
The analysis presented in this paper reflects the direct fiscal impact of unlawful immigrants. It reports the benefits received and taxes paid by those immigrants. However, there can be other indirect fiscal consequences of unlawful immigration. For example, unlawful immigrants augment the U.S. labor force and thereby expand the gross domestic product (GDP) by roughly 2 percent. Unlawful immigrants themselves capture most of the gain from this expanded production through their wages, and taxes on the immigrants’ wages and consumption are already incorporated into the analysis.
This paper will be delving into immigration reform in Arizona, and more specifically the negative effects that the border surge has had on the socio-economic status of the Grand Canyon state.
In The New Americans, a study of the fiscal costs of immigration published by the National Academy of Sciences, the National Research Council (NRC) argued that if service remains fixed while the population increases, a program will become “congested,” and the quality of service for users will deteriorate. Thus, the NRC uses the term “congestible goods” to describe population-based services. Highways are an obvious example. In general, the cost of population-based services can be allocated according to an individual’s estimated utilization of the service or at a flat per capita cost across the relevant population.
Abel Valenzuela, Jr., "Working on the Margins: Immigrant Day Labor Characteristics and Prospects for Employment," University of California at San Diego, Center for Comparative Immigration Studies Working Paper No. 22, May 2000.
The debate about the fiscal consequences of unlawful and low-skill immigration is hampered by a number of misconceptions. Few lawmakers really understand the current size of government and the scope of redistribution. The fact that the average household gets $31,600 in government benefits each year is a shock. The fact that a household headed by an individual with less than a high school degree gets $46,600 is a bigger one.
While the presence of low-skill migrant workers can be construed as a challenge to low-skill native workers, the economic effects are the same as the effects of free trade-a net positive and a leading cause of economic growth. A National Bureau of Economic Research study by David Card found that "Overall, evidence that immigrants have harmed the opportunities of less educated natives is scant." The consensus of the vast majority of economists is that the broad economic gains from openness to trade and immigration far outweigh the isolated cases of economic loss. In the long run, as has been documented in recent years, the gains are even higher.
An immigrant’s entry into the U.S. does not cause these payments to increase. For that reason, they have been excluded from the fiscal analysis presented in this paper. This is consistent with methods employed by the National Research Council in The New Americans.
Although the center’s primary focus is on the Latino population, its research and surveys often also include some information on other groups. The website has reports about demography, economics, education, identity, attitudes (of Latinos, and of non-Latinos towards Latinos), immigration, labor, politics, and remittances.