Immigration Economics: Helpful or Hurtful?
By Cardiff de Alejo Garcia
If the national debate over immigration’s economic impact is contentious (see article), the same conversation takes a different form – and a more pleasant tone – in New York City.
The widely cited survey, The Newest New Yorkers, from the Department of City Planning, credits immigration as the single biggest reason for the city’s steadily increasing population, which reached a new high of more than eight million people in 2000. This increase may have prevented the city’s economy from collapsing as it did in the 1970s, when New York’s population decreased by nearly 10 percent, contributing to the city’s near bankruptcy.
“Immigrants have long been a vital component of New York City’s population
Census Bureau statistics show why. Each
The Newest New Yorkers survey also shows how immigrants have disproportionately contributed to the City’s labor pool — especially in jobs vital to the City’s infrastructure. As of 2000, immigrants accounted for 43 percent of New York City working residents. They occupied 46 percent of manufacturing jobs, 58 percent of construction jobs and 54 percent of jobs in the category of Accomodation, Food, and other Services.
Since the release of the survey, few have argued against the benefits of immigration in New York City. Andrew Beveridge, a professor of sociology at Queens College and authority on local demographic trends, believes that New York City’s remarkable diversity inclines New Yorkers to look more favorably upon immigrants: “Given the demographics of New York City,” he wrote recently in the Gotham Gazette, “it seems likely that most New Yorkers will remain well disposed towards the city's immigrants, legal or illegal.”
Of New York City’s 2.9 million immigrants (roughly 36 percent of the city’s population), the country with the largest representation of foreign-born residents was the Dominican Republic, with only 13 percent, according to the 2000 Census.
“When you get a lot of communities to interact, there is a synergy,” said Jagdish Bhagwati, a Columbia University economist, referring to the amalgam of ethnicities in New York City. “And these immigrants are a very good role model for kids. Many of them are people who made it from nothing. If they can do it, why not us?”
© 2006 NYC24 is a production of the New Media Workshop at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism