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Two new studies, one by the Urban Institute and another by the National Academies of Science, indicate that first-generation immigrants to the United States cost state and local governments more than native-born Americans, $3,000 more per adult on average. But the studies also found that immigrants ultimately pay more in taxes than their native-born counterparts.
Kim Reuben, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute, said the higher initial costs of first-generation immigrants is due largely to their dependent children, which they have 0.16 more of per person than native-born adults (0.52 dependents per adult versus 0.36).
“Education is expensive - if you have more kids in general as a group compared to other groups, you’re going to have higher costs,” said Reuben, who co-authored the Urban Institute study and also contributed to the NAS report.
But she said the answer wasn’t to stop educating immigrant kids because education is key to their becoming contributing members of society. As the NAS study showed, there is considerable upward mobility between first- and third-generation immigrants, mainly as a result of higher educational attainment. The average annual income for first-generation immigrants in California, for instance, is $29,000, while the average income for third-generation immigrants is $42,000. And immigrants begin outpacing native-born Americans in paying taxes in the second generation. (GOVERNING, URBAN INSTITUTE, NATIONAL ACADEMIES OF SCIENCE)