NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


October 27, 2006

As a new report shows, the United States is importing poverty -- mostly from Mexico.  That's why real median incomes are lagging and poverty rates are stubbornly high, says Investor's Business Daily (IBD).

According to a recent study by Heritage Foundation economist Robert Rector:

  • Immigrants, though just 17 percent of the population, represent a quarter of all poverty.
  • But even that figure is deceptive, because by far the highest poverty rate is for Hispanic immigrants -- again, mostly from Mexico.
  • Fully one-quarter of Hispanic arrivals earn below the poverty income -- $15,219 for a family of three; most come illegally.

Contrary to claims of a "shrinking middle class" and the "end of the American dream," the reality is somewhat starker.  The vast majority of American citizens in fact are doing very well, and have been for decades, says IBD:

  • Last year, the U.S. median annual household income was $46,326 after inflation -- up a third since the mid-1960s, as reporter Tom Van Riper recently noted.
  • Since 1995, average household wealth has soared 35 percent to $465,970 currently.

It's mostly illegals -- whose numbers are pegged from 12 million to 20 million -- who are faring poorly:

  • Though just 9 percent of U.S. population, Hispanic immigrants account for 17 percent of the poor -- and their number is growing.
  • So is the percentage of those without health care coverage -- some 43.6 percent of all noncitizens versus 13.4 percent for those born here; for Mexicans, the number is 54 percent.

Why does this matter?  The National Academy of Sciences estimates that every immigrant lacking a high school degree will cost U.S. taxpayers $89,000 during his life, net of taxes paid.  The academy further reckons total costs for illegals economy-wide could be as much as $2 trillion. 

Source: Editorial, "Poverty's 800-Pound Footnote," Investor's Business Daily, October 27, 2006; and Robert E. Rector, "Importing Poverty: Immigration and Poverty in the United States: A Book of Charts," Heritage Foundation, Special Report #9, October 25, 2006.


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