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Immigration and social services: fact v. fiction

When young and new workers begin paying into benefit programs like Medicare and Social Security, they often do so under the assumption that at retirement age they will ultimately collect the same amount they contributed over the years. And while this concept isn’t entirely wrong, it doesn’t account for factors like inflation and population growth. Such elements influence the amount beneficiaries are entitled to, and often result in individuals receiving more in social services than they ever contributed. If that’s the case, though, then why hasn’t the entire system imploded by now? Some argue that immigration is keeping it afloat.

The immigrant (both documented and undocumented) population is supplementing the American workforce, paying into vital social services programs. If the number of immigrant workers were subtracted from the overall working population, some note that we would find more citizens collecting benefits than contributing. In that scenario, the equation falls apart. However, current evidence suggests that not only are immigrants fueling the workforce but they’re paying more into social services programs than they ever get back.

According to a Harvard Medical School Study, immigrants pay billions of dollars extra into Social Security each year. Similarly, American-born citizens collected close to $30 billion more than they paid into Medicare, while immigrants paid around $115 billion more than they received.

Another factor that researchers are becoming increasingly aware of is that a great number of immigrants are generally healthier than born citizens, which translates into them collecting on fewer benefit programs. But the greatest difference may be that the immigrant population is younger. The increased number of younger workers paying into programs like Social Security helps support the aging population that relies on it.

It can be argued, then, that the entire country benefits from sustaining a healthy and productive immigrant workforce.  

Source: New York Post, “How immigration helps the elderly,” Linda Chavez, May 31, 2013

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