Wellesley Researcher Testifies Before Congress on the Economic Benefits of Immigration

A woman sits at a table with a microphone.
Photo provided by Wellesley Centers for Women
July 10, 2019

Sari Pekkala Kerr, economist and senior research scientist at the Wellesley Centers for Women, testified before the U.S. House Committee on the Budget during a hearing on the economic benefits of immigration on June 26.

Kerr shared findings from her research on the contributions immigrant entrepreneurs make to the U.S. economy, highlighting the significant role immigrants play as business founders and job creators. While immigrants make up about 13 percent of the U.S. population, she said, they are the founders of 26 percent of new businesses, and immigrants across the country are more likely than nonimmigrants to be entrepreneurs.

“U.S. states differ in the share of firms owned by immigrants, but in all states, in all cases, immigrants start more firms on a per capita basis than natives do,” said Kerr during her testimony.

In the United States, immigrants have a broad economic impact, founding businesses in both high-tech and low-tech sectors, she said. Some of today’s largest tech companies, like Google, have immigrant founders, as do many businesses in accommodation and food, professional and technical services, health care, social services, and retail fields.

“It is a false notion that less-skilled immigrants or immigrants without a college degree don’t provide something for the economy,” Kerr said in response to a question from Rep. Joseph Morelle of New York. “They are an economic powerhouse.”

Kerr also reminded the committee that research indicates immigrants have an overall positive impact on their host country’s economy.

In her written testimony she explained, “Even large, sudden inflows of migrants have not been found to cause negative employment or wage effects on the natives, but instead benefit the economy in the long run, with benefits increasing the more highly educated the incoming group of migrants is.”