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What do immigrants cost state and local governments?

This post was originally published here (Urban Institute Research)

Heated debates about travel bans and border walls seem to dominate the news cycle, but what do we really know about the effects of immigration?

Earlier this year, Urban Institute researchers contributed to a comprehensive National Academies of Science study examining the fiscal and economic impacts of immigrants and refuting many common misperceptions about immigration.

Immigrants have roughly the same pattern of government spending and funds received as native-born Americans, with differences largely related to differences in demographic characteristics. But in general, immigrants tend to be more of a burden on state and local government budgets than on federal coffers, though it varies by state.

Why are states spending more on immigrants? And will their investments pay off?

Although immigrants are costlier to state and local budgets…

A new brief examines differences in what taxes are paid and services used by immigrants and native-born people across the 50 states. How these costs vary depends, in part, on how we allocate them. Some spending, such as education and health care, increase with each additional person. Others, such as national defense, do not. The latter are considered public goods. Should immigrants be partly responsible for the costs of these public goods that don’t change?

The brief shows that if the costs of government spending, including public goods, are allocated to all people equally, immigrant adults are costlier to state and local budgets than native adults, with almost $3,000 more spent per adult (when the costs of children are assigned to their parents). If immigrants are not assigned a share of these costs, the gap drops to $450.

However, these patterns vary by state. The maps below show the range of immigrants’ fiscal impacts for an average (they are assigned a share of public goods) and marginal (they are not given a share) cost allocation.

Read The Full Article

Author: Kim S. Rueben, Sarah Gault

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