Los Angeles Times: Immigration Will Help Retiring Baby Boomers

Older Americans who oppose immigration reform may want to rethink their position, according to a recent editorial in the Los Angeles Times. [See Boomers Need Immigrants, Los Angeles Times editorial board, 12.May.2013.]  The thrust of their argument: there may be costs associated with legalizing millions of unauthorized immigrants, but for demographic reasons, we can’t afford not to:

“In fact, demographers such as Dowell Myers of USC’s Price School of Public Policy have repeatedly warned that the country is on the verge of an epic transition as baby boomers retire en masse and birthrates decline. A 2013 report by Myers suggests that in Southern California alone, ‘boomers are beginning to retire from the most productive period of their lives, creating enormous replacement needs in the workforce.’ In other words, the U.S. needs immigrants to help cover the retirement costs of older Americans and to fuel economic growth.”

The Social Security Administration (SSA) drove home a similar point in a letter to Senator Marco Rubio, noting that immigration reform would have a positive impact on the system’s finances. [See U.S. Immigration Bill Would Help Social Security’s Finances: Report, by Caren Bohan, Reuters, 08.May.2013.] As Reuters reports, “The analysis said the bill would create a net 3.22 million jobs over the next decade and boost U.S. gross domestic product by 1.63 percentage points over that period.” Immigration reform also would provider a broader base of support – read: working taxpayers – to prop up the system through their payroll contributions – read: taxes – as Reuters likewise points out.

These future benefits would accrue on top of the billions that unauthorized immigrants have already paid into the system. A few years ago, the Washington Post reported what many already suspected: that unauthorized immigrants have made substantial contributions to the long-term solvency of the Social Security system. Just how much? As of 2007, “somewhere between $120 billion and $240 billion,” which “represented an astounding 5.4 percent to 10.7 percent of the trust fund’s total assets of $2.24 trillion that year.” This, according to Steve Goss, who has served as SSA’s Chief Actuary for well over a decade. [See How Illegal Immigrants are Helping Social Security, by Edward Schumacher-Matos, Washington Post, 03.Sep.2010.]

Another thing for retiring boomers to consider: care for the elderly is already a growth industry unto itself, one that will only get bigger in the coming years, as a larger share of baby boomers reach retirement. As we have noted in the past, immigrants will be needed to prevent worker shortages among those who take care of the elderly: doctors, nurses, home health aides, and so on. [See Trendspotting: Immigration and Care for the Elderly, MurthyBlog, 21.Feb.2011.]

According to the Los Angeles Times, though, one of the most compelling reasons to support immigration reform is that it will provide a more stable economic foundation for everyone – which will benefit the elderly and their families for generations to come!

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