May 24, 2007
By Robert Rector
To the Editor:
Your May 24 editorial attacks my research on the fiscal costs of
low skill immigration as perpetuating a "myth". Roughly one third
of immigrant households are now headed by immigrants without a high
school degree. My research, based on Census data and other
government sources, shows these "low skill immigrant" households
receive, on average, $30,160 per year in government benefits while
paying $10,573 in taxes. Thus each such household costs the
taxpayer $19,588 per year. Overall, the net cost to U.S. taxpayers
is $89 billion per year. My report suggests that the country would
benefit fiscally by having fewer low skill immigrants, who are net
tax consumers, and more well educated immigrants who are net tax
How does your editorial refute this finding? By changing the
subject. Rather than rebut my contention that low skill immigrants
are a fiscal drag, it presents statistics about how much all
immigrants, including college graduates, pay in taxes. Far from
refuting my study, this tactic is either misleading or, at best,
irrelevant. It certainly does not demonstrate that low skill
immigrants pay more in taxes than they take in benefits.
The editorial also asserts, contrary to the manifest facts, that
low skill immigrants do not receive large amounts of means-tested
welfare assistance. It claims that one major "flaw" in my analysis
is that I count immigrants as receiving welfare despite the fact
that most "are not eligible". Immigrants do have limited
eligibility for welfare, which is why my report counts the welfare
received by immigrant households based on the immigrants'
self-report of welfare receipt to the Census Bureau. If an
immigrant household states it got Food Stamps, it is counted as
receiving Food Stamps. It is that simple.
As my report explicitly states, this procedure "automatically
adjusts for the low use of government benefits by ...immigrants,"
due to eligibility limits. Unless immigrants are over-reporting
their own welfare benefits, one finds that low skill immigrant
households receive about $10,000 per year in means-tested welfare
throughout their lifetimes. This figure does not include other
major benefits such as public education, Social Security, and
By changing the subject and thus failing to engage the facts,
your editorial obscures the real fiscal impact of low-skill
Robert E. Rector
Senior Research Fellow
The Heritage Foundation
Your May 24 editorial attacks my research on the fiscal costs of low skill immigration as perpetuating a "myth".
Senior Research Fellow
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