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Economic Stimulus for New York

January 29, 2010 - Posted by Maurice Belanger

Jackson Heights Market

On January 20th, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg gave his State of the City address at the Frank Sinatra High School of the Arts in Astoria, Queens.  He spent the bulk of his talk telling New Yorkers what to expect from his Administration in the future in terms of helping New Yorkers climb out of the economic downturn. 

One focus of his Administration will be to help immigrants succeed.

So as we push for comprehensive immigration reform in Washington, we'll also do more to help struggling immigrants right here in our own backyard because all of us have an interest in seeing immigrants succeed.

A recent report by the Comptroller of New York, Thomas DiNapoli, emphasized just how important successful immigrants are to New York City.

In a short paper, The Role of Immigrants in the New York City Economy, the Comptroller lays out a wealth of statistics explaining the crucial contribution immigrants make to the New York workforce and economic life.

The arrival of immigrants between 1970 and 2008 arrested the city's population decline and more than turned it around.  The immigrant population more than doubled, to 3 million, while the native population declined by a million during the same period. 

New arrivals, the report notes, helped revitalize neighborhoods across the city.  The ten neighborhoods with the greatest concentration of immigrants had stronger economic growth than the rest of the City between 2000 and 2007—14.8 percent compared to 3.3 percent.  In those neighborhoods, the number of paid workers grew by 8.2 percent, but only by 0.9 percent in the rest of the City.  Even though immigrants tend to have lower-paying jobs than native-born residents, the report notes, the annual payroll in the 10 high-concentration immigrant neighborhoods increased by 36.3 percent, compared to 32.8 percent in the rest of the City.

Not all immigrants were in lower-paying occupations.  According to the report, foreign-born workers made up 100 percent of the City's chemical engineers, 71 percent of biomedical and agricultural engineers, 40 percent of accountants and auditors, 27 percent of chief executives and legislators, and 21 percent of elementary and middle school teachers.

Overall, immigrants make up 43 percent of New York City's workforce and they account for $215 billion in economic activity—about 32 percent the total gross city product. 

It is no wonder Mayor Bloomberg is stepping up his support for Comprehensive Immigration Reform.  As he noted in a press release commending Representative Luis Gutierrez and members of the New York Congressional delegation for introducing CIR ASAP in December,

New York City's greatest strength has always been its diversity, and the contributions made by New York's immigrant communities have driven America's economic engine for generations.  Today, however, our immigration laws are broken, hurting our economy and many immigrant families.  A comprehensive solution is urgently needed.

The immigration reform component of our economic recovery will also be important to New York State as a whole.  As the Immigration Policy Center notes in a recent fact sheet, New York's immigrants are responsible for nearly one quarter of the state's gross domestic product.  Should comprehensive immigration reform fail, and if undocumented immigrants were to be removed from New York, the state would suffer the loss of approximately 137,000 jobs and $12.7 billion in economic output.  That is no way to go about economic recovery.

Photo: Flickr user sayan51

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