Immigration with Dr. James Johnson

NCSL Spring Forum: May 2013, Denver

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Running time: 00:07:15


  • James H. Johnson Jr, Ph.D, University of North Carolina





In this interview, James H. Johnson Jr., Ph.D, highlights the distinction between the fiscal and economic impacts of immigrants.  “Focusing on the simple fiscal impacts of legalization misses the boat.” Taxes paid minus services used does not accurately reflect the impact of immigrants. There are also direct and indirect tax revenues and business revenues. “Immigrants pay sales tax at the grocery store, and gas tax for the car they use to drive there.”
Only after synthesizing these positive effects can the benefits be fairly compared with costs of K-12 education, healthcare, and corrections. He stresses the need for isolating the multiplier effect of immigrants in the economy.
Johnson argues that a huge reason to support immigration reform is avoiding the long term costs of aging. The average person today turning 65 lives another 18.7 years. With the baby boom causing a Social Security bubble, new workers are needed to sustain the system. Every day, for the next 20 years, 8,000 baby boomers are turning 65. Combined with decreasing native-born fertility rates, Johnson believes that the necessary path is importing talent. Without this, Social Security and other benefits will struggle to survive.
Johnson is director, Urban Investment Strategies Center, Frank Hawkins Kenan Institute, University of North Carolina.

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