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News from EPI New EPI Feature Answers Frequently Asked Questions about Immigration and the U.S. Labor Market

A new Economic Policy Institute feature, Facts About Immigration and the U.S. Economy: An Economic Policy Institute FAQ, by EPI Director of Immigration Law and Policy Research Daniel Costa, Economic Analyst David Cooper, and Economist Heidi Shierholz, provides essential information and background on major aspects of the U.S. immigration system, including the size and composition of the immigrant population, how immigration affects the economy and workers, the budgetary impact of unauthorized immigration, and why thousands of unaccompanied migrant children are arriving in the United States. The FAQ points to the need for reforms that can ensure immigration will help the United States fulfill its economic potential. In light of the Department of Homeland Security’s ongoing review of its immigration enforcement policies and President Obama’s consideration of reforms he can implement under his executive authority, the FAQ will aid anyone hoping to understand the broader context surrounding the debate over legalizing unauthorized immigrants.

“Though policymakers and a majority of the public agree that our current immigration system is dysfunctional, many misperceptions persist about what problems actually ail the system and how they can be fixed,” said Costa. “The immigration debate is rife with misinformation on key facts including, where immigrants are from, how much immigrants earn and the contributions immigrants make to the economy.”

Key facts include:

  • Less than half of U.S. immigrants are Hispanic or Latino.
  • Immigrants account for 14.7 percent of total economic output, which is larger than immigrants’ 13 percent share of the population.
  • There are almost as many immigrants in white collar jobs as in all other occupations combined.
  • Immigrants are strongly represented in some high-wage jobs, and play a significant role in many middle-wage jobs. For example, 22 percent of dental, nursing, and health aides are immigrants, as are 31 percent of computer software developers—well above immigrants’ 16 percent share of the labor force.
  • The U.S. immigration court system is underfunded and understaffed and has a backlog of 375,500 cases, which leads to an average wait time of 587 days.
  • In 2013, nearly two-thirds of immigrant workers who were granted lawful permanent residence were born in Asia.