The Economic Benefits of Immigration

Giovanni Peri
Published in
Berkeley Review of Latin American Studies (2014)

Immigration has always been a formidable engine of economic and demographic growth for the United States. During the last decades of the 19th century, immigrants contributed substantially, providing labor for the industrialization and electrification of the country. That wave of immigration was ended by the very restrictive immigration laws passed in 1929. While the “Immigration and Nationality Act” of 1965 abolished national quotas and allowed the flow of immigrants to resume, it has only been during the last 30 years that the mobility of the world’s people has increased significantly. Young, motivated, and often highly educated people are on the move, and many of them would like to come to the United States. With its 41 million immigrants, the United States is by far the largest magnet for international migrants. Moreover, according to Gallup World Polls, there are about 150 million more people who say that they would migrate to the United States (from every country on the planet) if they had the opportunity.