Quora: Do Cities Benefit From Immigration?

Opponents of U.S. President Donald Trump's immigration ban greet passengers at Boston's Logan Airport Brian Snyder/Reuters

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Answer from Richard Florida, University Professor, Co-founder of The Atlantic's CityLab, on Quora:

Immigrants and cities go together, helping to make more productive societies. They are a positive force for economic growth in the United States, key to the nation's growth; immigrants are the font of energy and diversity that built America, shifting new clusters of talent and innovation to other cities in other nations. Rather than taking jobs away from Americans, they bring different skills to the table that complement those of American workers, helping to drive economies. Lower-skilled immigrants do the kind of low-paying, dirty, and dangerous work that American workers don't want to do, while high-skill immigrants help power America's innovative high-tech industries. Anywhere from a third to a half of high-flying high-tech start-up companies.

Today, 13 percent of the US population is made of immigrants; 21 percent in Canada. But immigrants are massively concentrated in urban areas. Generally speaking, areas with large immigrant populations experience both higher rates of further immigration and economic growth. It's a key element of the third of my 3Ts of economic development, tolerance.

Large cities are magnets for immigrants, but immigrants also propel innovation and economic growth. On the one hand, highly educated immigrants are key to innovation. In the US, immigrants make up a disproportionate share of scientists and engineers as well as Nobel Prize winners. Between a third and half of high tech companies have an immigrant on their founding team. On the other hand, less skilled and less educated immigrants, like my own grandparents who immigrated from Southern Italy, bring talent and energy and do many of the hard jobs that nobody else wants to do. Metros with higher share of immigrant consistently outperform those with fewer share.

When I traced the geography of immigration and found that the top ten large metros for immigrants list reads like a who's who of America's most economically vibrant and dynamic metros: Miami, San Jose (the heart of Silicon Valley), Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Houston (America's energy capital), Washington, D.C., and New York City. The bottom ten feature harder-hit Rust Belt metros like Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Buffalo. Metros with higher levels of immigrants have higher concentrations of high-tech industry, more startups, and higher incomes and wages overall.

Not surprisingly, America's major immigrant destinations voted against Trump, while his support was concentrated in the places that have the smallest number of immigrants.

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