CNN joined the ranks Thursday of The Washington Post, The New York Times and other national media outlets in warning about the supposedly harmful economic effects of the RAISE Act, a Trump administration-backed bill to reduce legal immigration levels by half over a decade.
In a report titled “Trump immigration plan to cost 4.6 million jobs, Ivy League study finds,” CNN highlighted an analysis of the bill by the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business. The Wharton study projects that by 2040, the American economy would lose more than 4 million jobs and be 2 percent smaller under the RAISE Act than it would be under current immigration levels.
Even assuming Wharton’s predictive model is accurate, CNN unquestioningly relies on the study’s jobs and GDP figures, and then misreads what they actually portend for the U.S. economy.
Steve Camarota, the director of research at the Center For Immigration Studies (CIS), says CNN is ignoring the fact that there will be 4.6 million fewer workers in the U.S. under the RAISE Act precisely because there will be roughly 10 million fewer immigrants. In other words, a smaller population will have fewer workers than a larger population, but that fact illustrates nothing about the the bill’s effect on the native population.
“It looks like what they’re arguing is that that the U.S. population will be somewhat smaller, and the overall GDP will be somewhat less, but all of that is absorbed by the people that don’t come,” Camarota told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “There’s nothing in there that says the existing population of native-born and legal immigrants will in any way be harmed.”
“In fact, it all looks like good news because it states that the employment rate — that is the share of people with a job — is going to go up,” Camarota added. “They inadvertently make the case for the RAISE Act.”
According to the study’s authors, the domestic worker participation rate wouldn’t increase enough under the RAISE Act to fill the jobs that immigrants would have filled. That means the job market will become more favorable for native-born Americans, as CIS fellow Jason Richwine noted in a blog post Thursday.
“That suggests not only that Americans will work more under the RAISE Act, but also that the ‘lost jobs’ will be lost not by Americans, but by the immigrants who would not arrive,” Richwine wrote.
As for the lost economic output that results from lighter immigration, Camarota says the media’s focus on gross domestic product (GDP) is highly misleading.
“Adding people to the United States, as a general proposition, doesn’t raise the standard of living,” Camarota explained. “If it did why wouldn’t Bangladesh be richer than New Zealand? After all, it’s got a lot more people, and its GDP is slightly larger. But nobody says ‘Oh, Bangladesh is a richer country than New Zealand and the people are better off.’ What matters is per capita.”
The Wharton analysis does address GDP per capita, finding a negligible effect from reduced immigration under the RAISE Act. According to the study, the bill would cause per capita GDP to be 0.02 percent higher in 2027 that it would have been under current policy.