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Immigrants Offset Population Decline and Aging Workforce in Midwest Metros

Yet another report finds that immigrants have a positive impact on the US economy. Last week the Chicago Council on Global Affairs released a study called "Growing the Heartland: How Immigrants Offset Population Decline and an Aging Workforce in Midwest Metropolitan Areas". The reports authors' analyzed data from across the 12 state Midwest region and found that while the native born population is growing slowly and aging rapidly, the population of immigrants in their prime working years (aged 35-44) is increasing. From 2000 to 2010, the native population grew by only 3.3% in the Midwest while the immigrant population grew by 27% and immigrants now account for 38.4% of people living in the Midwest.

This is a big deal. Population decline in Midwestern cities is a huge problem. According to the report, population decline "leads to a declining ratio of working-age persons to children and retirees, with relatively fewer persons over time who are able to pay taxes to support schools for the youngest residents and services to retirees". 

The increasing population of immigrants, however, helps to offset this demographic change. Moreover, immigrants can also help to revive communities by purchasing houses. A devastating effect of population decline is urban blight. Just look at Cleveland or Detroit--once large, populous, and prosperous cities that face the challenge of deserted neighborhoods and abandoned properties.

But immigrants who invest in these neglected communities, by buying homes that natives may have overlooked and helping to bring these neighborhoods back to life. As Juliana Kerrs of the Chicago Council says, "“The demographics reveal that the immigrant population is here and important to the region’s growth. Policymakers now should focus on developing effective policies to seamlessly integrate immigrants and leverage their economic potential.” 

Several Midwestern cities are working hard to attract immigrants, most notably Dayton and Detroit. Here in Cleveland, the organization Global Cleveland is spreading the word about our city in order to encourage immigrants to move here. After reading this report, we need to make sure we do everything we can to attract immigrants and revive the Midwest.