Times Square in New York City (Photo by Carly Witteman)

Opinion: The cultural and economic benefits of immigration

Since the beginning of the United States, immigration has been an important part of this country, setting it apart from the rest of the world as a nation of immigrants.

The Economic & Fiscal Impacts of Immigration by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine explains in depth the impact of immigration on this country and the many variables connected to the subject. All of the data overwhelmingly points to the fact that immigration has affected the United States in many positive ways. 

Immigration has significantly increased the diversity of this nation, adding to the rich fabric of this country’s cultural make up and heritage. The United States is known to be a country with one of the highest numbers of immigrants.

Immigrants were not always welcomed with open arms in American history.

According to the National Academies report, “The United States has witnessed successive waves of mass immigration that were initially seen as crises but are now celebrated as major contributions to a ‘nation of immigrants’.”

Although there were times when mass immigration was seen as a problem, it has only benefited the country in the long run. 

Without immigration, what would the population of the United States be like? This is one question without a clear, distinct answer. In fact, it would be somewhat unimaginable. The diversity that comes with immigration is key in virtually everything. 

A simple example of the importance of diversity can be seen in the foods one consumes. If a person is only exposed to two types of vegetables, peas and carrots, think of how much they are missing out on? All of the different tastes and satisfactions from other foods will never be experienced. The same goes for the people of a nation. If a country is made up of only a small number of cultures, the members of the population are only directly exposed to so much. 

A study published on the U.S. National Library of Medicine website found that mere exposure to the faces of people of different races can increase participants’ tendencies to “like” those people, which means exposure to different people can make them more open minded. Cultural homogeneity often brings narrow mindedness and stagnation in cultural development. Being exposed to cultural differences allows for one to be challenged in a positive sense, bringing upon new perspectives on every idea and experience.

 In addition, a variety of opinions and cultures brings people to find the best ways to go about different practices, as well as providing different opportunities for growth. A diversity of population and of culture is crucial in any nation, and in the United States, diversity is fueled by immigration. 

Further, immigration has driven innovation, in addition to boosting the diversity of this nation. It is an obvious fact that having more diversity in people’s experiences, languages, and cultures can bring in a variety of perspectives, which creates fertile ground for creative new ideas. Such creativity can only lead to more innovative ways to do everything. But the benefits of this are not just in terms of having a more interesting life and culture, there are also economic benefits. 

The National Academies explains that “the contribution of immigrants to human and physical capital formation, entrepreneurship, and innovation are essential to long-run sustained economic growth.” Immigrants have boosted the U.S. economy through innovation and entrepreneurship tremendously, as well as having “higher patenting rates than natives.” The increased rate of patenting clearly shows the significant amount of innovation that immigrants contribute to in the United States. Innovation and entrepreneurship also allows for the country as a whole to be seen as ‘set apart’ from other nations.  The contributions immigrants make are critically meaningful for the well-being of this nation. 

Many highly skilled and wealthy immigrants bring in their wealth and knowledge from their homeland and invest their money and time in this nation, which boosts the U.S. economy. Of course, it is known that not every immigrant is of high financial status or education and brings large sums of wealth or skill to this country. 

However, this does not mean that immigrants of lower financial status or skill and education are not able to contribute to this nation as a whole. In fact, their skills have tremendously impacted the labor force. Many of the United States’ most famous structures wouldn’t be here without the strong labor force that has mainly consisted of immigrants. 

A well-known example is the construction of the American Transcontinental Railroad. As noted by History.com, despite the negativity that Asian immigrants faced in the United States, it is crucial to realize that without the 20,000 Chinese immigrants who were treated with racial injustice and given the harshest jobs, the creation of the Transcontinental Railroad, a huge contribution to the U.S. infrastructure and thus economic growth, wouldn’t be possible. 

Diversity, innovation, and economic growth are only three ways that immigration has positively affected this nation. In fact, there are innumerable ways that the United States has been positively impacted by the contributions of immigrants.

These positive contributions that immigrants make to the United States not only assist the nation in the long run, but also clearly disproves those who have negative sentiments about immigration. Immigration brings to our nation new experiences and opportunities and will only benefit this country as a whole.