Immigration figures sign of a healthy economy?

Monday, April 20, 2015

McCook's biggest celebration every year celebrates the fact that, with the possible exception of those of us with Native American heritage, our ancestors came from somewhere else.

The coming of the railroad in the late 19th century saw an influx of settlers, many of them of German heritage who had been living in Russia.

But that was a long time ago, and immigration is a thing of the past, right?

Not entirely, according to U.S. Census data.

The Daily Yonder notes that from 2000 to 2012, the number of Red Willow county residents who were born in a foreign country grew by 45, to an estimated 179.

Granted, that's a small increase in a small segment of our population, up from 1.2 percent to an estimated 1.6 percent.

But it's a good trend, according to the publication's research, which shows that counties with a healthy immigrant population are doing better economically.

"What people don't understand is that immigration is a selective process," James H. Johnson Jr., a University of North Carolina business professor who has researched the economic impact of immigration. "Immigrants tend to be younger and healthier than the general population," he said. "They are risk-takers by definition. For them, the glass is always half full."

The Daily Yonder looked at the nation's 1,966 nonmetropolitan counties, including Red Willow County, which have no cities of 50,000 or more residents and don't have strong economic ties to a county that does.

Researchers found that counties with a higher percentage of their population born in foreign countries generally had a higher per capita market income and more jobs.

They also tended to have lower rates of unemployment and better poverty figures than counties with a smaller proportion of immigrants.

Red Willow County was a mixed bag, with total employment growing slightly, by 0.1 percent, to an estimated 7,449 full and part-time jobs. Unemployment, meanwhile, rose by 0.8 percentage points to 3.3 percent. And, the percentage of people living below the federal poverty line grew from 10.1 in 2000 to an estimated 11.3 in 2012.

Our overall population estimate decreased 3.8 percent, to 11,000 over the past decade.

We have to wonder if it's a chicken-or-the-egg thing -- are the immigrants here because this is where the jobs are, or do the immigrants bring the jobs with them?

It's probably more of the former, but the latter can't be discounted.

Regardless, an influx of different cultures has always been an important part of a healthy American landscape.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: