DREAMers Could Actually Boost The U.S. Economy by $300 Billion

While the topic of immigration didn’t make the cut in the first presidential debate, it should have. Immigrants are a necessary and essential part of our economy, and children of immigrants in particular help innovate and drive economic growth.  A new report issued by the Center for American Progress finally quantifies this contribution and makes the economic case for passing the DREAM Act.

The DREAM Act– otherwise known as the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act, is a bill that provides a pathway to legal status for eligible young people who were bought to this country unlawfully by their parents. For those who have completed high school and some college or military service the DREAM Act promises to allow them to achieve their goals without being penalized for the actions of their parents.

According to the report, there are an estimated 2.1 million youth in this country that would be served by passing the DREAM Act and passage would create 1.4 million new jobs by 2030. Passing the DREAM Act would add $329 billion to the US economy, bringing a much needed revenue bolt to an anemic economic recovery.

CAP explains the benefits and their modeling this way:

First, enacting the law would provide an incentive for their further education because for most of those who would be eligible the legalization provisions can only be attained through completion of high school and some college. Receiving more education opens access to higher-paying jobs, enabling these undocumented youth to become much more productive members of our society. Second, gaining legal status itself translates into higher earnings for these youth since legal status allows DREAMers to apply to a broader range of high-paying jobs rather than having to resort to low-wage jobs from employers who are willing to pay them under the table.

Thus our projections track both the gap in current earnings between unauthorized individuals at various levels of education and their U.S.-born counterparts, as well as the gains in earnings from attaining more education. Overall, our research finds that by 2030 the eligible DREAMer population will earn 19 percent more in earnings than without passage of the DREAM Act, in turn increasing their consumption and contributing more in the way of tax revenue to the federal government.

Study authors note that their modeling looks solely at the economic benefits from passing the DREAM Act but does not consider any ancillary costs incurred with implementation and administration, so those projections could be reduced slightly.

Perhaps more importantly though, authors of the report also refute critics claims that these DREAMers would not produce these economic benefits because they’d merely be displacing American workers.

First, many economists find that immigrants tend to complement the skills of native workers rather than compete with them, especially as immigrants move up the education and skills chain. Increasing the education of immigrant workers would therefore decrease the competition between DREAMers and the native-born.

Second, research shows that an increase in college-educated immigrants directly increases U.S. gross domestic product—the largest measure of economic growth—which correlates to more jobs for American workers. In the 1990s, for example, the increase in college-educated immigrants was found to be responsible for a 1.4 percent to 2.4 percent increase in U.S. GDP. Finally, by giving legal status to DREAMers, fewer employers would be able to pay workers under the table and more would have to abide by a system that is fair to all workers.

Normally the story for passing the DREAM Act is told through inspirational narratives of DREAMers striving to make the best life they can for themselves. As the CAP study shows, now those stories of hope and dedication can be buttressed with some hard data. The question though is will it be enough to break the Tea Party barrier or is compassionate, common sense immigration reform too much to hope for with the current Republican leadership?


Related Stories:

What Do DREAMers and Rodney King Have In Common?

Cautious Welcome For Obama DREAMers Commitment [Video]

Obama Administration To Halt Deportation of DREAM-Eligible Youth


Photo from Library of Congress via flickr.


Sarah M.
Sarah M5 years ago

Yes! Thank you!

Bill Eagle
Bill E5 years ago

The right wing hates the Dream Act, but the Dream act may help the USA become stronger and better.

John S.
Past Member 5 years ago

Sorry, that was 1.4 million jobs. And how does that help when there are 2.1 million youth here?

John S.
Past Member 5 years ago

So, just exactly would passing this bill create 14. million jobs?

Danuta Watola
Danuta Watola5 years ago

thank you for sharing this article

Diana Roth
Diana Roth5 years ago


Nikolas Karman
Nikolas K5 years ago

Immigration serves a very useful purpose in the grand scheme of things and that is when we have borders, separation and thoughts of your different to me then we have the universal conflicts. But when we wake up and realise we are all one and are spiritual beings having a human experience and start working as one people then that will be the day we become immortal again. And will have no use for borders, passports, money and all the other trappings of enslavement by our egos

Heidi R.
Past Member 5 years ago

Prosperous countries always have their illegal immigrants. It is the nature of the human being to search for a better life. Unfortunately, it is also the nature of human beings to try to secure their own borders and wealth. The balance is hard to find.

Simon Validzic
Simon Validzic5 years ago

I would rather that people tried to improve their original countries instead of emigrating to the USA, Canada or Australia. These 3 countries have a very high per-capita ecological impact and it is not possible for everybody to live there so that is unsustainable. I get really turned off when people think that it is "normal" (in my case) to emigrate from Croatia but they expect me to explain why I returned to my country of origin ... or that European countries in general refuse to accept African immigrants. I condemn my parents and friends for emigrating to Australia and refuse to visit them. I would rather live in a poorer country than to have the "privilage" of being called names and bullied at school or caught up in the rat-race in a "rich" country. I do not need the "satisfaction" of living in a country that is the result of genocide of Aboriginals and with an economy that relies on the killing of animals, the logging of forests and the mining of coal. I got really turned off when I read that 30 thousand people emigrated from Croatia in the past few years (and Spain and Greece are no better). Emigration keeps poor countries poor by removing many of the professionals from the work-force.

Mary B.
Mary B5 years ago

I think the immigrants would rather stay in their own countries if they had work and a decent safety net.But if corporations out-source jobs, people here complain. If immigrants come here, people here complain.Why do we want more growth? The 'job creaters' can't keep up with the need for jobs as it is. We don't have enough affordable houseing. We're putting an ever growing strain on our environmental resources, and our public services. There is not enough money in circulation at the low income levels for poor people to take care of their own needs.And who can afford a 'higher education' at todays costs?What is wrong with the economist that they can't see whats right in front of them in real life?And WHEN are they going to catch on that people do not act like neat rows of numbers?All of these arguments are just more of the same old pro-con stuff.Of course immigrants add good things to our country. Of course too many people in our country is not a good thing.