You hear a fair amount about immigration in the United States and you also hear a fair amount about Social Security. But you hear shockingly little about the interplay between the two. Consider, however, that the overwhelming reason Social Security is facing a post-2037 budgetary shortfall is that population growth in the United States has been decelerating:
This is a free society, and if people choose to have fewer children than they used to that’s fine by me. I think that if we had more sensible policies around child care and housing the birth rate would probably edge up a bit. But of course there’s another way to increase the population growth rate. That would be to be more welcoming to people who’d like to move here. America’s gotten into the odd habit of thinking of ourselves as a country that’s burdened by the desire of other people to move here. But nobody thinks that way about a town or a neighborhood. Being a desirable place to live is an asset that we should take advantage of. About 165 million people say they’d like to move to the United States. It obviously wouldn’t be feasible for all of them to show up tomorrow all at once, but we could accommodate many more of them than we’re currently planning on, and doing so would strengthen our country in very many ways.
It’s true that higher levels of legal immigration aren’t the most politically popular thing around. But neither are tax hikes or benefit cuts. And unlike those, more immigration will actually boost our productivity and our growth rate.
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