The loud, ongoing debate over immigration reform often overlooks one very important impact from letting more foreigners come to live and work in the U.S.
Many researchers believe it's good for the economy.
The U.S. economy can use all the help it can get these days. Though the American job and housing markets continue their halting recovery, the engines of growth are slowing in the rest of the world. From Europe to China to Japan, global growth has so far resisted efforts to shake off the lingering effects of a massive debt hangover that followed the credit crisis of 2008.
"A return to the 'good old days' of 2003-2007 does not appear to be in the cards," Wells Fargo Securities economists wrote last week in a note on the slowing global economy.
While U.S. growth appears to be bucking the trend of the rest of the developed world in the short run, it shares the same long-term demographic headwind now confronting policymakers in Europe and Japan. As the population ages, their younger people aren't entering the labor force fast enough to replace the older workers who are retiring. And there are fewer younger taxpayers to cover the cost of providing retirement income and health care for those older workers.
"Immigrants do not typically compete with Americans for jobs," U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Tom Donohue wrote last week in an op-ed piece in The Washington Times. "The reality is that they create more jobs through entrepreneurship, economic activity and tax revenues."
Expanding the U.S. workforce with younger immigrants would also help offset the rising cost of Social Security payments and health care for a retiring baby boom generation.