THE BLOG
07/04/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Why the U.S. Needs More Immigrants

If the Unites States is to maintain its superpower status into the next century, we need more immigrants coming into the country over the next several decades.

The United States population, without new immigrants in the mix, looks a lot like those of other developed nations: aging, declining, and headed towards economic uncertainty.

These developed countries are now facing increasing challenges in maintaining both their economic power and relative geopolitical status in the face of some grim demographic trends.

Countries such as Germany, Japan and Spain, to name but a few examples, are facing long-term economic imbalances between workers and retirees, and the terrifying prospect of shrinking populations and the proportional economic decline that it will bring.

According to the CIA report "Long-Term Global Demographic Trends":

...As populations age and fertility rates continue to decline, our major allies-- even those who are currently plagued with unemployment and considerably tighter labor markets:

*The working-age population (15-64) in Japan is expected to decline by 37 percent by 2050, according to US Census projections.

*In Italy, the working-age population will decline by an alarming 39 percent by 2050

*Germany's working-age population will fall by more than 18 percent
during that same period...

*The working populations of the United States and Canada are expected to grow, albeit less robustly than in the past, for the foreseeable future:

The US working-age population is expected to rise by 33 percent over
the next 50 years, a fairly sluggish pace compared to trends in the past
half century.

...In any case, the ratio of taxpaying workers to nonworking pensioners in
the developed world is due to fall. Today, that ratio is about 4:1 in most
industrialized nations. In 50 years this ratio will drop to less than 2:1 or
even lower in some countries in Europe and Japan. It will fall to 3:1 in the
United States.


The United States' long-term economic and geopolitical status is interconnected with immigration flows into the U.S., a constant, predictable flow of people that refreshes the number of workers supporting an aging population, paying taxes and injecting vitality into the economy and society.

In short, if we want to maintain our superpower status, assure robust economic growth, save Social Security, and other entitlement programs, we will need a growing pool of (immigrant) tax payers to fund our national project. 

We will need new workers that can support the increasing number of Baby Boomer retirees.

The CIA report goes on to state:

Over the next 50 years the developed countries are projected to become smaller and the United States is projected to increase by nearly half. As a result, the population of Western Europe, which in 2000 was larger than that of the United States by about 115 million, in 2050 will become smaller by 40 million. Japan's population will steadily drop from less than half of the US population to one-fourth its size by 2050.

And China, seen by many as our next, big geopolitical rival, is not exactly well positioned, demographically speaking, for long term economic vitality.

China, which since the 1970's has implemented Draconian population control measures, is facing an aging crisis as well.  From the CIA report:

By 2025 there will be more than 200 million people 65 and over and more
than 300 million by 2050--close to the entire current population of the
United States...

Moreover, the working-age population supporting the pension system will be shrinking proportionally to retirees; the ratio of population ages 20 to 59 to those 60 and over is projected to decline from the current 6.7 in 2000 to 5.0 in 2010 and 2.7 in 2025. China's pension system is already faltering (some academics call it "actuarially unsound"), and pension costs are expected to exceed 40 percent of payroll by the early 2030s, according to a US think tank. In an economy in which most workers live near subsistence, this could be a crushing burden.

Maintaining the United States' global economic and military supremacy is inextricably interwoven with a growing population. 

Our heritage of immigration has created a unique competitive advantage for America; we are as a country comfortable with immigrants (Arizona not withstanding) and take pride in being "a nation of immigrants." We attract some of the most creative, talented and hardest working people from around the world -- and they succeed in our open, tolerant culture.

No other country on Earth gives immigrants the level playing field, the cultural acceptance and the general opportunity for success like the United States.

As the immigration debate rages across the country, we must not lose sight that this country has a brilliant future -- a future where immigrants will continue to make a significant contribution to the common good, our long-term economic health and global superpower status.