Economic Impact of Immigration Policies

September 7, 2018

As workers, employers, taxpayers, and members of our communities, immigrants, together with U.S.-born workers, are the engine that drives our spirit of innovation and economic growth.

However, the U.S. immigration system is broken—and it’s jeopardizing our economic future.

Many economists agree that immigration leads to a positive net impact on the U.S. economy, but restrictions on the number of employment-based visas and the costs of employer sponsorships are preventing businesses from hiring the workers they need across all skill levels. Particularly for high-skilled jobs, these limitations prevent U.S. companies from recruiting the best talent to stay competitive with other countries. In 2018, more than 190,000 people applied for just 85,000 available high-skill H-1B visas.

Many of these broken policies stem from misperceptions about how immigration affects native-born workers and the United States economy more broadly. Two commonly held beliefs are that immigrants take jobs from U.S. citizens or that immigrants push down wages for fellow workers. But the best available data say these realities are, simply put, untrue.


Rather than replacing American workers, immigrants are a necessary supplement to the native-born workforce. In June 2018, for example, there were 6.7 million open jobs and only 6.6 million unemployed persons looking for work. This means even if all of the unemployed persons in the U.S. applied and were hired for the available jobs, the U.S. economy would be short an additional 100,000 workers.

Research on wages are also broadly supportive of immigration. Contributions of immigrants across all skill levels leads to a higher median wage, but that increase might affect different groups by skill level. One analysis of wages from 1994 to 2007 indicates that, among native-born U.S. workers, those without high school diplomas saw between an 0.7 percent decrease and a 0.3 percent increase in wages. Native-born U.S. workers with a high school degree or more, representing more than 90 percent of workers, saw only increases in wages.

Business Roundtable continues to support reforms to the U.S. immigration system that would create a stronger economy for all Americans by removing barriers to legal immigration and ensuring all businesses have the workers they need to innovative in the economy of the future. America’s leading businesses understand the critical role immigrants play in furthering the vibrant spirit of innovation and ingenuity that continues to advance America’s place in the world.