Economic Effects of Immigration Policies

August 29, 2017

A 50-State Analysis


Immigration is central to America’s identity. Since the United States’ founding, immigrants have strengthened our country through their talent and hard work while enriching our culture. New arrivals not only add energy and innovation to American society, but they also have long been and remain essential to our strong, dynamic economy.

To continue this legacy, the United States needs sound immigration policies that provide strong border security while also promoting economic growth, supporting U.S. job creation and boosting American competitiveness. Policymakers and business leaders across the political spectrum agree that our current immigration system fails to meet these standards. However, there is a broad range of views on how to reform the system to generate the economic vibrancy that would benefit all Americans.

To help inform this discussion, Business Roundtable commissioned an economic modeling analysis by Regional Economic Models, Inc. to quantify the national and state-level economic effects of two potential policy approaches. The first is a balanced approach that addresses several aspects of the current system, from border security to legal immigration; the second has a narrower focus on border security and internal enforcement only.

Under a “Balanced Reform” scenario that addresses the need for both security and economic growth:

  • The U.S. economy would expand by an additional 3.9 percent over 10 years relative to the baseline status quo, amounting to an additional $831 billion in gross domestic product (GDP). This scenario would create 8.4 million jobs over the next decade and raise the median U.S. household income by $254 in the first year alone.
  • Nearly every industry would see substantial job creation, with professional, scientific and technical services; retail; and construction gaining the most. Likewise, every state would experience faster GDP and job growth and higher household incomes than under the status quo.

Under an “Enforcement Only” approach that specifically addresses security concerns:

  • The U.S. economy would contract by 3.0 percent over 10 years relative to the baseline, resulting in a loss of $640 billion in GDP. Nearly 7 million jobs would disappear in the next decade, and the median U.S. household would lose $153 in income in the first year alone.
  • While nearly every industry would suffer widespread job losses and output decline, among the most affected would be construction, real estate and retail. Likewise, every state would experience slower GDP and job growth and lower household incomes than under the status quo.

Policymakers have a range of options to consider as they address the nation’s immigration challenges. Finding the right mix of solutions that improves security and strengthens the economy is no easy task. As with any complex policy matter, facts and analysis are critical to success — and we offer this report as a set of economic factors that should be considered.

American business leaders urge policymakers to take into account the highly competitive, increasingly interconnected global economy and pursue immigration reform that provides access to needed labor in a transparent and secure manner that is consistent with our nation’s long history as a free, open and thriving economy.