The Wave of Future Prosperity?

The March 20 issue of The Economist focused on the rapidly growing Latino population for “Firing Up America.” The British publication provoked a series of commentaries in the U.S. media. But, the substance of the article was largely ignored while media attention focused on the front page graphic of a stylized American flag with red stripes composed of chili peppers. Finally, substantive commentary on the article appeared in the March 18 Washington Examiner written by conservative columnist Michael Barone.

Barone suggests that the magazine got carried away in pinning the future prosperity of the United States on the growing share of the population and the workforce comprised of Hispanic immigrants and their progeny. He notes that, “… so far the Hispanics who crossed the southern border don’t seem to have moved upward as rapidly as Italian-Americans did in the last century.”

A major reason for a different pace of upward mobility between the current wave of immigration and that of a century ago should be obvious to all. The U.S. economy is very unlike that of a century ago. The human capital needs are very different. While there is still a need for unskilled labor, it is much diminished in an era of mechanized production and robotics. Nevertheless, the nation’s current immigration law emphasizes family reunification rather than education and needed workforce skills. Besides that, the flow of refugees and illegal entrants further undermines the focus on skills that can fuel innovation.

Another difference is the welfare state today that did not exist a century ago. No longer are immigrant families thrown into a sink-or-swim environment. Low earning families with children immediately become eligible for the Additional Child Tax Credit. With an SSN they can claim the Earned Income Tax Credit. Children get free or reduced price meals in the schools. Don’t speak English at home? No problem, special school instruction will help the kids and adult education classes will help the parents. With a green card and five years of residency food stamps and a vast array of social welfare programs become available.

Both of these factors make the absorption of immigrants today, regardless of their ethnicity, is different from the nation’s experience a century ago. A further difference is the fact that the size of the U.S. population and its demand on the land’s resources is today vastly different. Though vast, the nation has limited land and natural resources. These factors – the needs of the economy, the mix of wealth producers and consumers, and the absorptive limits of the land all suggest that the immigration policy of the past is wrong for the future. 

About Author


Jack, who joined FAIR’s National Board of Advisors in 2017, is a retired U.S. diplomat with consular experience. He has testified before the U.S. Congress, U.S. Civil Rights Commission, and U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform and has authored studies of immigration issues. His national and international print, TV, and talk radio experience is extensive (including in Spanish).


  1. avatar

    The future looks bright for robotics and not so bright for the unskilled. Legal Americans are supposed to pay for all of the illegals present so a Chamber of Commerce member can maximize his/her profit by paying low wages. What a “win-win” they get the cash and we get to pay the taxes to provide housing, health care, education etc. We are going to be paying for illegal immigrants and their progeny for a long, long time. Illegal immigration is just a another form of unlegislated taxation.

  2. avatar

    There’s Probably a Good Argument to Drive Illegally Without Car Insurance Too

    Look at the money you’ll save and you’ll get away with it most of the time.

  3. avatar

    Perhaps the Economist should consult someone a little closer to home. Last July, Robert Rawthorn, an Emeritus Professor of Economics at Cambridge University and a self described leftist, produced a study of immigration’s effects on Britain. His conclusion, to put it in a nutshell:

    “The focus of this report has been on the economic and demographic costs of large scale immigration. These consequences are mostly negative for the existing population of the UK and their descendants, although there may be some minor benefits.”

    In this country, I think we have become the victims of all the new attempts to teach mathematics. Apparently we have forgotten how to add. Are people actually suggesting that allowing in many millions of poor uneducated non English speaking persons with large families and making them eligible for all sorts of welfare programs is a positive thing? Wow, someone is taking their stupid pills.

    Check that calendar, folks. It was one hundred years ago that our population passed 100 million. It’s not 1915 anymore. We are now quickly on our way to four times that population. There was a report on NBC News tonight about Gov. Jerry Brown of California finally addressing the fact that the state runs out of water in one year. Of course, Jerry had to get back to his main job. Which is, inviting everyone in Mexico to move to his state, legally or illegally. Can’t miss pandering for a vote while his state is about to turn into a dust bowl.

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      At one point everyone was an immigrant to this country. The Hispanic community is growing rapidly and strongly. The growing population is becoming more educated and skilled. They are becoming bilingual and prospering. Many Hispanic immigrants don’t need the welfare system but instead actually help contribute to other Americans who do need it.

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        Typical. You don’t actually say anything, just spout the usual cliches. In 2013, Hispanics were three times more likely to be uninsured than whites and made up almost 30% of Medicaid recipients, far above their share of the population. In fact, Hispanics make up a larger share of welfare program recipients. In Los Angeles County, families headed by an illegal receive more that 20% of all welfare payments.

        Why don’t you address the main point of this article? Which is, a hundred and more years ago, none of these programs existed. You made it ON YOUR OWN. The taxpayers were not there to support you. So why do we want to import the poverty of another country. And education levels of Hispanics are low compared to whites.

        And could you give me one reason why encouraging masses of people to move to California is a good thing? They do not have the water supplies to sustain the population they have NOW. So you can blather on with all your meaningless cliches, but those are not facts.

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        At one point, we all came from somewhere, maybe a creator or maybe we evolved from a Tofu plant. What does that have to with “illegal” or “lawless” behavior?.” Actually, those that don’t need it and actually contribute are the legal immigrants, who earned it the right way, stood in line, if necessary and are a large percentage who are against the “illegal” of immigration.

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          While I agree with the fact that legal immigration is better than illegal, as noted in this article a very large percentage of legal immigration is based on “family reunification”. And many of those people do not have high levels of education, sometimes not even high school graduate. This guarantees that they will pay little in taxes and will use more government services and benefits.

          Florida is considering a bill to provide welfare services to 25,000 legal immigrant children. That is not the idea of what legal immigration is supposed to be about. It is supposed to be a plus not a drain.

          And it is mainly legal immigration that has fueled our population increases of 25 to 30 million per decade for the last 30 years. Our president wants to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 40%. Great, good idea. But he won’t acknowledge the fact that any big gains in cutting those emissions are wiped out by population increases, and the policies he supports would only increase our already high levels of immigration. If we cut them by 20% but the population increases by 20%, where are we?

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        Angie Fact: the US population is 17% Hispanic yet almost twice that are on housing assistance. Almost 34% of the total receiving housing assistance are Hispanic. The average education of those coming from Mexico and other South American countries have on average a 10th grade education. And it is a statistical fact that the lower the education a person has the higher reliance on public assistance, regardless of where one was born or came from. The US does not need those who break our laws.