2005 April 26 Tuesday
Aging Population Funding Crisis Not Helped By Immigrants

Immigrants are not a net benefit to the Social Security Trust Fund.

Many advocates of high immigration argue that it fundamentally changes the nationís age structure, and is very helpful in solving the problem of an aging society. Demographic data, however, show that immigration has only a very small impact on the problem. While immigrants do tend to arrive relatively young, and have higher fertility than natives, immigrants age just like everyone else, and the differences with natives are not large enough to fundamentally alter the nationís age structure. The debate over immigration should focus on other areas where it actually has a significant effect.

Among this Backgrounderís findings:

  • In 2000 the average age of an immigrant was 39, which is actually about four years older than the average age of a native-born American.
  • Even focusing on only recent immigration reveals little impact on aging. Excluding all 22 million immigrants who arrived after 1980 from the 2000 Census increases the average age in the United States by only about four months.
  • In 2000 66.2 percent of the population was of working-age (15 to 64). Excluding post-1980 immigrants it is 64.6 percent.
  • Looking at the full impact of post-1980 immigrants reveals that if they and all their U.S.-born children are not counted, the working-age share would have been 65.9 percent in 2000, almost exactly the same as the 66.20 percent when they are all included.
  • Immigration also does not explain the relatively high U.S. fertility rate. In 2000 the U.S. fertility rate was 2.1 children per woman, compared to 1.4 for Europe, but if all immigrants are excluded the rate would still have been 2.0.
  • Looking to the future, Census Bureau projections indicate that if net immigration averaged 100,000 to 200,000 annually, the working age share would be 58.7 percent in 2060, while with net immigration of roughly 900,000 to one million, it would be 59.5 percent.
  • Census projections are buttressed by Social Security Administration (SAA) estimates showing that, over the next 75 years, net annual legal immigration of 800,000 a year versus 350,000 would create a benefit equal to only 0.77 percent of the programís projected expenditures.
  • It is not clear that even this tiny benefit exists, because SSA assumes legal immigrants will have earnings and resulting tax payments as high as natives from the moment they arrive, which is contrary to a large body of research.

Next time someone tells you we need more immigration to pay for an aging society point them at this study. That claim is a myth that deserves to die.

Given the unrealistic Social Security Administration assumptions immigration may well be a net detriment to the financial position of the Social Security Trust Fund.

Keep in mind that illegal immigrants are, on average, less educated, less skilled less well paid, and large net drains on the public purse. Amnesties for illegals shift them into the category of those eligible for Social Security and Medicare. Financially we'd be much better off if we deported the illegals and also imposed much higher standards on legal immigrants. People who come in to take lower paying jobs should simply not be allowed in. Only the more productive and highly paid immigrants are going to pay more in taxes than they receive in benefits.

The European Union mandarins in Brussels argue that immigration in Europe is essential to deal with Europe's aging population. But have the EU mandarins done the sorts of calculations for Europe that Steve Camarota did for the United States? I'm guessing the answer is "no". After all, here we are in the year 2005 and only now has someone done the sort of analysis that Steve Camarota has done for aging populations and immigration in the United States. Europe has less of a developed network of think tanks for analysing policy issues. So their elites are probably just guessing when they advocate for large scale immigration. Or they want the immigrants for other reasons and are putting forth false arguments that sound plausible on first hearing.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2005 April 26 11:06 AM  Immigration Economics

Derek Copold said at April 26, 2005 11:27 AM:

Immigrants' age average is increased because as soon as an immigrant hits these shores and gets his papers, he sends off for Mom, Dad and all the aunts and uncles, all of whom are then enrolled in Medicare and Social Security.

John S Bolton said at April 26, 2005 12:43 PM:

Camarota is violating one of the speech taboos of the welfare society; never mention that immigrants are on net public subsidy. The linked article's last three footnotes give links to research on how far below the median, immigrant incomes really are. Searching google for: "median income of persons" foreign born ~~~~ brings up the '99 numbers. This was only $16,000 for all foreign born, including those who've been here since the 60's! Compare this to the national median personal income of ~$24,000, it is more than 30% below, much as Borjas has reported. America cannot take random foreigners and make equals of them, however much it may flatter officials' or scholars' sense of power, to feel that they can. Again the inequality of man rudely slaps down the pretenses of officials and their professoriate. Fast growing welfare populations are the flourishing of the welfare warfare state. The greater the conflicts generated by the pillaging of the net taxpayer by foreigners here, the more enthused power seeking officials will become over it. The taxes paid on 16k don't even pay for their medical expenses, which, would be thousands no matter how you assign them a premium for drawing on the public medical funding. Mass immigration of people on net public subsidy is massive aggression. Even illegal aliens can get social security disability, the government gives them numbers regardless, and the disabilities allowed include low IQ and psychological adjustment difficulties! The labor force participation of foreign born is low and falling, as they flood by the millions on to these programs. This is why also the face of the immigrant today is markedly hostile; to plunder the net taxpayer of a foreign country is a warlike act, which requires a hostile disposition.

PacRim Jim said at April 26, 2005 1:22 PM:

Good news, hard-working Americans, while you are young you get to pay for the retirements of senior citizens and when you retire you get to pay the medical bills of millions of illegal aliens. Everybody wins...except you.

noone said at April 27, 2005 6:56 AM:

"Brussels argue that immigration in Europe is essential to deal with Europe's aging population"

I remember reading(could be wrong)that in some cities in France,immigrant unemployment is as high as 40%.

I also read(I do remember this)a Brussels mandarin stating "public opinion must be informed that Europe simply will become a mestizo zone".

The Elite have decided this and the public need to be told to accept it,typical,but why that word "mestizo"?

Europe's immigration comes overwhelmingly from Arab North Africa/Turkey,mestizos come from Latin America.So why that word??

John S Bolton said at April 27, 2005 11:50 AM:

The fact that officials and others have to lie about the average age of immigrants, and their likelihood of going on net public subsidy, is a signal that no sensible arguments are available for their immigration policies. The use of sly racial provocations, in the castroite new leftish tradition, is another such indication. When the right criticizes the alternative welfare handout societal disorders of today, they do not feel the need to make any racial provocations, as, say, about blacks and watermelons, for example. The left feels obliged to suggest that Europe or America will improve by becoming 'mestizo', presumably meant in some more generic sense. This is attempted racial provocation; they would like to be more openly anticaucasian, but officals don't dare to try that just yet, or not on a large scale. They are trying to get people in a position where the left can say that only racial animosity could explain opposition to massive plundering of the majority for the aggrandizement of immigrant minorities. They use this new left approach because rational persuasion is impossible for their cause, of increasing immigration of low income populations into the welfare state. The goal of such policies is civil war sufficient to justify an emergency powers' regime, thus gaining the power that the failure of the class war to materialize in the form predicted by irrational theory, has, so far, denied them. It is a desperate rearguard tactic by a left that knows that they cannot conceal indefinitely the widespread knowledge of socialism being mass murder for the hell of it.

John S Bolton said at April 28, 2005 5:07 PM:

When advocates of antimerit immigration realize that you know that the foreign born in this country are not younger than the national average age, they change their argument, and say that we can adjust the characteristics of the immigrant flow. If we have sovereignty and right sufficient to say who is the preferred age to immigrate, then we may also prefer language, IQ, political similarity, nonhostility of many kinds, and much more. That switch,away from indiscriminate or antimerit recruitment of foreigners being capable of, and likely to take up a social security tax burden from us, shows the dishonesty of the arguments used by such immigrationists. They wouldn't have to lie, and conceal the truth, on these subjects, if there cause were rationally defensible.

ArrogantAtheist said at July 4, 2005 12:09 AM:

Exactly right John...

All this says (which should have been obvious to our leaders) is we should be bringing in immigrants who are in their 20's. Preferably skilled young professionals from around the world. Who actually will earn more then native born Americans. And who we don't have to pay the costs of their education.

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