Impact of immigration on Georgia economy: not huge, but wide


Georgia may not be one of the states with the highest percentage of immigrants, but their economic impact here is stronger than average, according to a report issued Thursday.

Overall, the state ranks 20th in the country in terms of the impact of immigrants, using 19 metrics, according to WalletHub, consumer credit and data company.

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With immigration getting so much national attention, the company wanted to see which states were most affected, the report said. “Political differences aside, there’s no question that immigration as a whole affects the economy.”

Using 19 metrics, the company ranked the 50 states and Washington, D.C., where WalletHub is based.

Georgia scored highest on the share of foreign born workers with work visas: seventh highest in the nation. The state scored lowest on the share of households that are headed by second-generation immigrants.

Most metrics used by WalletHub did not rank states by the number of immigrants or the total impact, only by the share.

Even so, two of the most-populous states placed at the top. New York ranked first, followed by California. Filling out the top five were New Jersey, Massachusetts and Delaware.

Those who favor restrictions on immigration sometimes argue that fewer immigrants will mean higher wages for American-born workers. Regarding undocumented immigrants, they say deportation or restrictions are necessary for legal reasons, regardless of the economics.

Georgia has seen solid and steady job growth for about seven years. Metro Atlanta, for example, added 55,600 jobs last year while the unemployment rate dipped to 4.1 percent.

In a time when labor markets are tight and some employers complain they have trouble finding the workers they need, some economists say restrictions may dampen the economy.

“One of the concerns I have is that we are not considering what the long-term implications will be for our communities,” said Katie Acosta, professor of sociology at Georgia State University.

“We have immigrants here from across the whole spectrum,” from farm workers to well-paid doctors, she said.

The median income of a foreign-born household in Georgia is $49,314, compared to the overall median of about $51,000.

According to the WalletHub report:

  • More than one in five of the active physicians in Georgia state are graduates of international medical schools.
  • About one in five Georgia workers in STEM – science, technology, engineering and math – are foreign born.
  • About one of every 10 Georgia residents are foreign born.
  • About one third of immigrants in Georgia have at least a bachelor’s degree.

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