Immigration is a central pillar of the U.S. economy, so immigration trends often reflect broader economic trends. While immigration growth traditionally focused on large cities, new data suggests immigrants are now preferring smaller, suburban areas at a greater rate. In fact, some of the top cities attracting immigrants include Pennsylvania metropolitan areas you might not expect.
A New Report: Immigrants and Opportunity in America’s Cities
According to a new report issued by the Bush Institute-SMU Economic Growth Initiative, centers for technology like San Jose and San Francisco continue to be among the top destinations for immigrants to the United States. However, and perhaps surprisingly, smaller metropolitan areas in the mid-Atlantic and Midwestern states are showing increasing success in attracting immigrant populations, including those relocating within the country. While the reasons underlying this shift are complex, it is likely that the lower cost of living in these areas is driving this growth.
Pennsylvania showed particular promise among the regions where immigrant population growth is trending. According to the report, the 100 largest metropolitan areas where immigrants are thriving include Pittsburgh (Ranked 7th), the Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington region (ranked 16th), Harrisburg-Carlisle (ranked 19th), Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton (ranked 26th), and Scranton-Wilkes Barre (ranked 96th). Notably, these trends reflect a new economic reality for immigrant populations in the United States. Rather than moving to the largest cities in the country, immigrants are now seeking more affordable, suburban regions to call home.
A new Axios article by Stef W. Kight titled “First Look: The U.S. Cities Where Immigrants are Moving and Thriving,” discussed the same findings contained in the Bush Institute report. The article notes that the shifting population growth is bringing with it demographic and social change to new suburban centers in the United States. These changes will bring economic growth; Cullum Clark, Director of the Economic Growth Initiative, stated that metropolitan areas “experiencing large inflows of foreign-born people are benefiting tremendously by attracting these people.”
Economic Impact of Immigrant Population Growth
It is largely undisputed that immigrants make a significant impact on the American economy. Most directly, immigration increases economic output by increasing the size of the labor force, thereby increasing economic productivity. Economists Gaetano Basso and Giovanni Peri find that immigrants are more mobile than natives in response to local economic conditions, perhaps because they have fewer long-standing familial and community ties, helping labor markets to function more efficiently. Accordingly, as immigrant populations shift, the economic benefits of those populations will reward and punish certain regions in the country.
The recent report appears to suggest that Pennsylvania stands to directly benefit from the recent trends in immigration growth. However, as immigrant populations continue to grow in smaller, suburban areas in Pennsylvania, it is important that state and local government adopt policies that seek to welcome and engage these new populations.