Beyond the Hoopla — Older Immigrants Are Economic Disasters

By David North on June 12, 2012

We keep reading the publicity about the economic value of immigrants — and some of them are truly helpful — but when all is said and done and they retire, they are, as a group, economic basket cases.

The basic data for that conclusion, if not the conclusion itself, come from a report just issued by the Migration Policy Institute, the Washington, D.C.-based more-migration think tank.

Using Census data, the MPI report shows these contrasting financial outcomes for native-born and foreign-born people 65 and older:

Measure Native-Born Foreign-Born
Median Personal Income $20,000 $11,000
Receiving Income from Savings 31.40% 17.50%
Earned Income 19.30% 17.50%
Welfare, Public Assistance 0.70% 2.40%
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) 3.60% 11.60%

This is a damning set of numbers and covers the entire population of people born here and abroad 65 and over. This is the entire universe of aging one-time immigrants — and there are five million of them — as compared to the rest of the population.

The immigrants have half the median income of their native-born peers and are less likely to be working, less likely to have income from savings, and more than three times as likely to be receiving welfare. While 90.0 percent of the native-born have worked enough in the American economy to receive Social Security, this is the case with only 71.9 percent of the foreign-born.

So we should increase migration to build the economy?

The grim findings above relate directly to the basic tilt in U.S. immigration policy toward admitting the families of earlier generations of immigrants, rather than toward migrants with skills. This produces — in general — large numbers of lightly skilled, low-income migrants who become, as time passes, large numbers of poverty-stricken, and to some extent, welfare-using old people.

But all of these long-term consequences of our immigration policies are routinely hidden from public view and MPI is to be commended for printing the numbers shown above.