The future growth prospects of the US economy are severely constrained by a lack of working-age population growth. Fewer workers means less output without increases in productivity so large as to be highly unlikely. Increased immigration alone directly addresses the problem of fewer workers contributing to the US economy. Sound policy can help boost both the quality and quantity of available workers while ensuring that increased immigration serves to broaden rather than diminish opportunities for native-born workers.
To achieve greater economic prosperity and address labor shortages, CED recommends:
- Admitting more immigrants between the ages of 18 and 35. Ready-to-work immigrants who enter the U.S. have already benefited from education and child-rearing spending that would cost more than $300 billion if obtained in the U.S.
- Giving states flexibility to allow immigrants who meet their labor needs. Policies modeled on Canada’s Provincial Nominee Program could help lead to a geographic distribution of new immigrants that better supports the U.S. labor market.
- Improving H-1B visa criteria to admit more workers in occupations with labor shortages. The current U.S. immigration system does not adequately consider future labor shortage risks. Immigrants in computer-related occupations, where there is currently lower risk of labor shortages, dominate H-1B admissions. In contrast, occupations requiring health services or statistical and mathematical analysis face labor shortages that will continue to grow if left unaddressed.