The U.S. economy currently has its share of problems, including less-than-stellar growth and stagnant wages. But it’s still the largest and arguably healthiest economy in the world – far and away.
What’s our secret? The same things that have powered us through good times and bad for 240 years, including our ingrained optimism, self-reliance, faith, and belief in the powers of innovation and entrepreneurialism.
Oh, and our demographics.
America’s growing, youthful and productive population, fueled in part by immigration, gives us an economic edge over other industrialized nations by expanding our domestic consumer markets, bringing high-level skills to employers, and spawning new businesses.
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The U.S. has one of the higher annual population growth rates among industrialized nations at .77%. That puts us ahead of the United Kingdom (.55%), France (.45%) and Holland (.42%), not to mention Japan, which is experiencing a population decline. Our current population of 324 million is expected to hit 441 million by 2065.
Most of that growth will come from immigration. About 78 million of the 2065 population will be immigrants with another 81 million being first-generation Americans.
Immigration is a touchy subject in the U.S. primarily because of problems related to illegal migration. But it’s important for everyone – policymakers and regular citizens – to understand that orderly immigration is a huge plus for our nation. Why?
Talent – Many of the smartest, most educated people in the world still consider the US the best place to realize their dreams and raise a family. In exchange for the freedom and security America provides, we get an unfair share of the world’s top talent.
Entrepreneurship – Immigrants have historically shown a passion for business ownership. These newcomers who open restaurants, nail salons, lawn services and other retail operations, sometimes because they can’t find employment with established businesses.
Hustle – Immigrants are typically highly motivated to achieve, and they pass this work ethic on to their kids. They are constantly striving to improve themselves and their circumstances. They didn’t come from halfway around the world to live a middling life.
Demand – The sheer number of newcomers, combined with our own domestic population growth helps ensure that demand for products ranging from housing to paper towels will remain strong.
While critics say immigrants take American jobs, the evidence of that is mixed, at best. The vast majority of job loss in this country over the past two decades has been the result of automation in the manufacturing sector.
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A growing population also ensures a consistent source of labor for a steadily expanding economy. Of course, that population has to be more than a collection of bodies to fill workstations. It needs to be good at its jobs. U.S. employees remain among the best, consistently ranking in the Top 3 for productivity among the world’s workers.
The next time you hear someone grumble about immigration or “over population,” remind them that both are net positives that will help keep America in the economic vanguard for the rest of this century.