This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 13th (it will be out in January 2020), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Monday, January 28, 2013

A First Step Toward Immigration Reform

Members of the US Congress have been unusually swift in generating a bipartisan proposal for comprehensive immigration reform. As the BBCNews notes, this is probably pushed along by the realization among at least some Republicans that they cannot afford to continue alienating the country's fastest growing demographic group. The proposal includes elements that have been on the table for some time--a path to citizenship for at least some of the current undocumented immigrants, a renewed effort at border security, and increased scrutiny of employers who might be hiring undocumented immigrants. Of course many of these elements are similar to the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) signed into law by President Ronald Reagan in 1986. 

A cynic might suggest that since the average length of generation is about 25-27 years, it appears that each generation has to have a bill like this. But, the important point raised by everyone is that we cannot continue to exploit and discriminate against a large group of people whose only real crime is to come to the US to do the work that legal residents won't do for the wages on offer. Of course these jobs will still be there after the current crop of undocumented immigrants starts on the path to citizenship, which is why the proposal also includes ideas about guest-worker programs.

There are lots of details to be worked out--and it is not yet clear whether they can be worked out. But, in the meantime, we must keep in mind that an increasing fraction of future voters and taxpayers will be the children of immigrants (both legal and undocumented) from Latin America, especially Mexico. My view is that all of us will be better off if the parents of these young citizens are legal residents who can thus be making more concrete contributions to American society. In the short term the immigrants contribute to the fact that the US population continues to grow despite low fertility levels, but in the long term it is the children of the immigrants who will make the largest demographic contribution.


  1. I think you make a good point--the system is indeed broken. But a path to legalization will also mean a lot more people who are paying relatively taxes who will then be eligible for Social Security and Medicare--precisely at a time when those programs need to spend less, not more. Anyway, as you mention, perhaps there is no way to really 'solve' these problems.

    BTW, I recall reading a projected date of something like 2050 for when the Hispanic USA become more numerous than ethnic-white USA (or whatever the correct terms are). Does that projection hold any water?


    1. Since most of the undocumented immigrants are younger than baby boomers, we should be past the aging crisis when they reach old age, and their children will have shouldered an important tax burden.

      The most recent Census Bureau projections suggest that by 2060, Hispanics will be up to 30 percent of the population, and non-Hispanic whites will be down to 43 percent. So, it will be a "minority-majority" population, but Hispanics will not be more numerous than non-Hispanic whites.