Population decline threatens economic competitiveness, decreases the number of taxpayers and reduces political representation and influence at the federal level. The number of native-born persons in Midwestern metro areas grew by only 3.3 percent between 2000 and 2010, while the number of immigrants grew by 27 percent. Immigration now accounts for 38.4 percent of all metro area growth in the Midwest.
“The flat growth experienced by so many Midwestern metro areas might not be a problem if the population were not also aging substantially at the same time,” said Rob Paral, author of the report and principal of a demographic consulting firm, Rob Paral and Associates.
The number of native-born persons aged 35 to 44 ─ in their prime working and tax-paying years ─ fell by 1.4 million from 2000 to 2010 in the Midwest. At the same time, the percent of Midwesterners who are in their late working years or early retirement years is on the upswing. This leads to a declining ratio of working-age persons to children and retirees, with relatively fewer persons over time who are able to pay taxes to support schools for the youngest residents and services to retirees.
Immigration plays an especially important role in offsetting the Midwest population decline of younger age groups. New immigrants are disproportionately in their early working years. The largest age category of new legal immigrants to the United States in 2012, for example, was the 25-to-34-year-old group. The arrival of more than a quarter million immigrants in this age group has been critical to staving off more dramatic population decline in the Midwest region.
“The demographics reveal that the immigrant population is here and important to the region’s growth,” said Juliana Kerr, who directs The Chicago Council’s immigration work. “Policymakers now should focus on developing effective policies to seamlessly integrate immigrants and leverage their economic potential.”
Generous support for this report (PDF) was provided by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and The Chicago Community Trust. This report builds on previous Chicago Council reports on immigration and U.S. economic competitiveness, with a focus on the economic contributions immigrants make to Chicago, the Midwest and the nation. For more information, please visit MidwestImmigration.org and join the Group of 500 business, political and civic leaders who support the Council’s work on immigration. Follow @julianarkerr for updates.