The Economic Mobility of Immigrants: Public Charge Rules Could Foreclose Future Opportunities
8 Pages Posted: 10 Dec 2018
Date Written: November 15, 2018
Newly arrived immigrants to the United States typically have lower incomes than similar age native-born counterparts when they arrive, but the immigrant-native gap gradually closes as the immigrants remain for a longer time, improving their job skills, English proficiency and social capital. This paper discusses how recently proposed federal rules that threaten the ability of recent immigrants to attain permanent residency conflict with immigrants’ economic mobility and may ultimately harm not only the immigrants, but the broader economy. Specifically, “public charge” rules propose to prevent immigrants from becoming permanent residents if they have used means-tested public benefits or if they have low incomes or less than a high school education. The rule implicitly assumes that immigrants are poor in their first years in the country will remain poor, despite the evidence that immigrant incomes rise relatively quickly. Analyses presented in this paper, which are consistent with other prior research, show that immigrants start out with lower incomes than those native-born, but gradually catch up. Moreover, immigrants with low education close the immigrant-native income gap even faster, catching up with similar US-born counterparts within six to seven years on average. By making it more difficult for lawful immigrants to remain in the United States, the proposed public charge regulations stifle immigrants’ future opportunities and undercut their ability to contribute to the nation.
Keywords: immigrant, economic mobility, regulation, public charge
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