What Impact Do Immigrants Have on the U.S. Economy and Social System?

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As a nation, Americans equally support liberty and justice for all; however, when it comes to foreigners, many natural born citizens claim constitutional rights do not apply. As an example, Arizona’s legislation Senate Bill 1070 (SB 107) allowed law enforcement to stop and question suspected illegal immigrants. While this was not the first protective measure against illegal immigration, SB 107 critics argued that it would result in racial profiling. Indeed, on June 14, 2013, the Supreme Court ruled that local Arizonian Sheriff Joe Arpaio was guilty of racial profiling (Billeaud, 2013). In addition, the Supreme Court found that his office was guilty too (Billeaud, 2013). While his office may have been acting under his orders, this debacle revealed immigration control is anything but simple because policies are undefined, law enforcement has little training, and many Americans believe that immigrants will hinder our economy due to public resource abuse. Americans also argue that immigrants take jobs away from capable citizens and have negative impacts on cultural values. Because immigrants are outsiders, Americans fear that they will bring their own rules that will end up in high crime and they will devalue our customs and our ideologies that allegedly make America so special. However, it is the suspected American Dream that brings many legal and illegal immigrants to the United States. With that said, it seems that Latino immigrants receive the brunt of the criticism and are a popular source for researchers and the media; however, does this certain population pose the greater danger to the United States’ economy and social system? Instead of focusing on Latino illegal immigrants, government policy makers should take into account the many foreigners who step upon the U.S. soil. Nevertheless, most research focuses on Latino immigrants and does not take into account other immigrants who come from other countries. Thus, my research question explores how researchers and news sources define problem immigrants. 

RQ: Why do media sources and researchers focus on Latino immigrants?

As I examine this research question, I will specifically look into recent studies that base their conclusions on Latino immigrants and I will hypothesize the following:

H1: Local media outlets rely on human interest stories to gain readers, so they report on poor border control and inadequate policies because most Latino immigrants are alleged to illegally cross.

H2: Researchers have more data based on Latino immigrants because they often encounter state border controls.  

First, I will provide findings from current studies that attempt to measure ill effects from legal and illegal immigration. The ill effects will include crime and loss of jobs. Secondly, I will provide findings from a recent research study that asks if immigrants will abuse public health resources. Lastly, I will summarize findings from recent studies that report immigrants’ effect on America’s economy. 

Literature Review

Kim, Carvalho, Davis, and Mullins (2011) considered three research questions and various hypotheses in their study. First, Kim et al. (2011) asked if media portrayal of illegal immigrants was responsible for negative attitudes. Kim et al. (2011)  hypothesized that television news is more likely to broadcast news that suggest that there is a link between male and female criminality and illegal immigration, and newspapers in border states are more likely to publish negative immigration stories than other states. Secondly, Kim et al. (2011) asked if the media specifically reported on certain causes related to illegal immigration. Kim et al. (2011) hypothesized that television channels would blame poor border control and little law enforcement as responsible for the amount of illegal immigrants. Lastly, Kim et al. (2011) questioned the media’s ability to offer solutions concerning the United States’ concern with illegal immigration.  Kim et al. (2011) hypothesized that television news and border state newspapers would recommend harsher border control whereas other newspapers would suggest that law enforcement should propose stricter penalties. 

Kim et al. (2011) searched LexisNexis Database from January, 1, 1997 until December, 31, 2006 with the keywords ‘illegal immigration.’ The sample size was 2921 newspaper articles and 473 recorded news shows; however, they only used stories based on Latino immigrants as part of their sample. Based on systematic sampling, they were able to reduce their sample size to 50 articles and 50 television news stories. Kim et al.’s (2011) coders were to use a measure called a coding table to identity how many times each of the samples mentioned economy problems, lack of illegal immigration policies, weak law enforcement and border control, or another mentions beside the former. Each of the criteria was thoroughly defined and by double-coding random mentions in the articles and television transcripts, Kim et al. (2011) corrected the inter-reliability using Scott’s pi. Kim et al. (2011) concluded that illegal immigration received the most coverage in 2004, but its reports remained consistent thereafter. 

Based on Kim et al.’s findings, it seems that news media tries to report on what sells. In other words, immigration is a hot topic. For the most part, states along the borders have to contend with security issues and border control, so, in a way, it is a local interest story. On the other hand, national news stations consolidate the local new stories news by blaming the government. In addition, their findings indicated that for-profit news stations were more likely to report the negative consequences of illegal immigration. While border state newspapers were more likely to write articles based on a social context, they would reveal the negative factors such as increased cost. Nonetheless, I learned that Latino immigrants were targeted for research. Kim et al. only used Latino immigrants for their data, so it reveals researcher bias. Therefore, my research fills the gap in this case because each ethnicity should be properly sampled. In addition, it is worth finding out why Latinos immigrants are usually targets for news reports and studies. 

Wadsworth (2010) questioned if large cities with new immigrants show high crime activities and if the differences in crime rates, between the years 1990 through 2000, was due to the increase of immigration. Because there was a lack of empirical data, Wadsworth (2010) hypothesized that the claims of increased crime were unsubstantiated and based on media reports. Using 1989 through 1991 and 1999 through 2001 data from the Uniform Crime Report (UCR) and the US Census, Wadsworth (2010) focused on Latino and black males between the ages of 15 through 34 who were new immigrants who lived within the United States for five years and less. Because some crimes are more likely to be reported than others, Wadsworth (2010) focused his sample on reports of homicide and robbery. The variables also included demographic variables and structural variables such as income, education level, and mobility. Wadsworth’s (2010) methods included ordinary least squares regression models and pooled cross-sectional time-series models. Based on his results, the ordinary least square model indicated that immigration and high levels of crime were linked. On the other hand, the pooled cross-sectional time-series models implied that in the years 1990 and 2000, crimes rates decreased even though immigration rates were exceedingly high. Wadsworth’s (2010) did not prove his hypothesis, but he did suggest that the influx of immigrants in the 1990s may have a connection with the drop in crime. 

Wadsworth’s study demonstrated violent crimes are most often attributed to minorities. On one hand, I learned that other researchers suspect that the media over reports or sensationalizes immigrant crime. On the other hand, it seems that Wadsworth’s ethnic sample identified only two minorities. In addition, the cities that he based his data on seemed to have high measures of crime as it was. While it may be true that homicides and robberies are most often reported, it is worth looking into other crimes such as embezzlement or fraud. Thus, my research question identifies that there is a gap in investigating other immigrants such as those who are, as an example, from Asian or Indian descent.

Subsequently, there is little research involving Asian immigrants. With that in mind, Hofstetterd et al. (2011) proposed that the move to another country was stressful for female first generation immigrants. Hofstetterd et al. (2011) hypothesized that the Demands of Immigration (DI) Scale would be offer validity and reliability in this demographic. Previous research had not measured stress in Koreans. Hofstetterd et al. (2011) used the DI Scale to measure participants’ anxiety due to language barriers, unknown territory, and lack of employment, friends, or family. Overall, the DI Scale has 22 items that relate to stress. The researchers tested for subscale statistics, correlation amongst the subscales, and measured the internal consistency reliability and construct validity. 

The 595 participants were based on a random sample phone survey, chosen for their last names, of first generation Korean and who spoke Korean or English. Hofstetterd et al.’s (2011) conducted telephone interviews and entered the data into an electronic database and randomly assigned the participants into two groups for exploratory factor analysis or for confirmatory factor analysis. Hofstetterd et al. (2011) reported that most Korean immigrants did not feel additional stress of being in a new environment; however, most indicated that language was the most stressful. Hofstetterd et al. (2011) concluded that the DI Scale showed strong validity and reliability with this particular ethnic group. 

Based on Hofstetterd et al.’s study, I learned that cultural factors may account for one’s research. Because many studies address crime or a negative effect on the United States’ economy and public health care, it was an unusual focus. Health care usually comes from three sources: healthcare through employment, private health care plans, or public assistance or emergency rooms. With that in mind, my research will address the gap in that I will investigate Asian and Indian descent immigrants and if they have a negative effect on the United States’ healthcare or if they are able to secure employment that provides healthcare benefits. 

Rouse, Cutaia-Wilkinson, and Garand (2010) have noted that the Latino population is rising and some American citizens attribute that to immigration. Specifically, Rouse et al. (2010) wondered if Latinos in America hold negative attitudes towards Latino illegal immigrants and hypothesized that American Latinos’ attitudes regarding legal and illegal immigration would be influenced by their nationalities. Using data from the 2004 National Survey of Latinos, a Pew Hispanic Survey, and U.S. Census contextual data, Rouse et al. (2010) explored Latino Americans’ attitudes regarding Latino illegal immigrants. Rouse et al. (2010) found with a factor analysis that the predominant attitudes pertained to benefits and negative effects on the economy, permanent residence in the United States, and global attitudes. The independent variables included competitive attitudes based on increased labor or financial gains, rewards or labor arrangements, natural born citizens’ ethnicities, place of residence and political party, and backgrounds (Rouse et al., 2010). The dependent variables included Latino Americans’ attitudes and perceptions based on immigrants’ legal or illegal statuses (Rouse et al., 2010). Especially, Rouse et al. (2010) asked Latino Americans if they thought illegal immigrants hurt the U.S. economy. Secondly, Rouse et al. (2010) asked respondents if they thought legal immigration was good for the economy. Lastly, Rouse et al. (2010) asked the respondents to record their preference for approval methods concerning permanent citizenship. In regards to economics, Rouse et al. (2010) coded three additional variables for crime, employment, and immigration, and they hypothesized that those who scored employment and/or crime high would be against legal immigration, yet they would support illegal immigration because it would be beneficial to the economy. Rouse et al. (2010) found that the independent variables affected the dependent variable of economy because the numbers indicated that Latino Americans’ origins influenced their feelings and attitudes towards legal and illegal immigrants. Significantly, those Latino Americans who spoke Spanish believed immigrants were a positive addition to the United States (Rouse et al., 2010).  Political affiliations did not have any significant bearing on their attitudes; however, the authors reported that large communities of Latino Americans believed legal immigration damaged the economy (Rouse et al., 2010). 

Based on Rouse et al.’s study, I learned that Latino immigrants were the source of much contention. In addition, it seemed that the respondents believed that legal immigrants posed more of a threat than illegal immigrants. Thus, my research will fill a gap in that I will explore other immigrants other than Latinos. 

In their analysis, Kandal et al. (2011) have questioned Hispanic immigrants’ economic successes based in rural and metropolitan areas.  Kandal et al.’s (2011) data was comprised from the 2000 decennial Census 5 percent Public Use Macro Sample (PUMS) and combined data from 2006 and 2007 American Community Surveys (ACS). The participants were Hispanic women and men, between the ages of 16 to 64, who were born outside of the United States, and the individuals lived in their own houses or apartments in rural cities or states to represent the working class (Kandal et al., 2011). In order to compare the participants, Kandal et al. (2011) used a typology that defined rural cities and states as the most popular for Hispanic, specifically Latino, immigrants. Kandal et al. (2011) proposed full time and year round employment was a valuable indicator of their participants’ successes.  Nevertheless, as a benchmark for earnings, Kandal et al. (2011) speculated that most immigrants in their sample would fall below the poverty line.  Kandal et al. (2011) concluded that Hispanic immigrants would be able to attain full time and year round employment regardless of their previous education or skills in rural areas or metropolitan cities. Correspondingly, Kandal et al. (2011) reported that Latino immigrants tend to look for affordable homes near good schools. In addition, Kandal et al. (2011) determined that Latino immigrants were more likely to fall below the poverty line in rural based areas instead of the others who moved to populous cities, but, at the same time, the immigrants who moved to rural areas traditionally stayed in the US longer than those who moved to Metropolitan cities. 

According to Kandal et al.’s study, Latino immigrants face the same issues as United States citizens. Essentially, they want better lives for their families and a place to call home. My research will fill a gap because I will find evidence that reveals shelter, food, family, or companionship, are basic human rights regardless of where one comes from. 

As Cohen-Mark and Stout (2011) assessed the similarities and differences of immigrants’ notions of the American Dream, they hypothesized that the loss of retirement funding and other economic uncertainties, for American citizens, is the real threat. Cohen-Mark and Stout (2011) anticipated that immigrants were not the only minority group to question their financial security. Instead, they hypothesized that black Americans are more likely to worry than white Americans. In addition, while Cohen-Mark and Scout (2011) revealed their uncertainty in predicting Latin and Asian Americans’ concerns, they also hypothesized that these demographics would be more optimistic about their future success in America. Cohen-Mark and Scout (2011) gathered survey results from 2007 based in Los Angeles. A stratified sampling design provided Cohen-Mark and Scout (2011) with an authentic blend of nationalities. The dependent variable was a question that asked respondents if they believed that they would attain the American Dream in the future, or if they felt like they were already living the dream (Cohen-Mark & Scout, 2011). The other dependent variable was the only survey answers included in the study was those who answered that they had not reached the American Dream at that moment (Cohen-Mark & Scout, 2011). The independent variable were dichotomous variables based on the respondents’ ethnicity, age, income, education level, gender, employment, and family life (Cohen-Mark & Scout, 2011). Cohen-Mark and Scout (2011) created one logit regression model based on ethnicity and the other logit regression model was designed to find those who were optimistic about achieving the dream in the future. The researchers measured the changes in the dependent variable was in its maximum value of one (Cohen-Mark & Scout, 2011). In their results, Cohen-Mark and Scout (2011) found that whites were the majority who thought they reached the American Dream while Asian Americans were second. Black Americans indicated that they were not positive about reaching financial security, so Cohen-Mark and Scout (2011) concluded their hypotheses was true.  

In this study, I learned that Americans will worry about their financial security regardless of immigration. On the other hand, I also learned that perhaps Asian immigrants have familial support who resides in the United States, or that they have desirable skills that allow them to find employment. My research does not necessarily fill a gap in this case; however, my research will seek to uncover why Latino immigrants are frequently held as responsible parties for a lack of financial security. 


In sum, Rouse et al. (2010) found that Latinos Americans would view legal immigrant Latinos as a threat to the United States’ economy.  However, Kandal et al. (2011) reported that many immigrant Latinos have a better chance of higher wages in metropolitan areas, so they tend to move to larger cities; however, economic insecurities exist apart from immigration. At the same time, Cohen-Mark and Scout (2011) noted that some ethnicities are more positive than others. As Kim et al. (2011) concluded illegal immigration and subsequently legal immigration news coverage may affect positivity. Regardless, moving to a new country would be stressful, so legal and illegal immigrants may have to contend with other worries such as unsupported media reports that claim they are responsible for the United States’ economic crisis and crime (Wadsworth, 2010).  Subsequently, as I investigate the media and researchers’ focus on Latino immigrants, I will have to address the practicality of my research. First of all, my scope may be too large. I hope to fill the gap in that I address immigrants other than the Latino variety, but I need to remain unbiased. In addition, I may have to depend on archives, so my research would offer quantitative data; however, I would like to conduct semi-structured interviews in order to gather qualitative data. With that said, I may be limited in that aspect. Ultimately, I would rather not reinforce previous research, but reveal another dimension of immigration. 


Billeaud, J. (2013, June 8). Ariz. sheriff suspends immigration efforts [ABC news story reported by the Associated Press]. ABC News. Retrieved September 12, 2013, from http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/arpaio-temporarily-suspends-immigration-efforts-19345499#.UbPjYvm...

Cohen-Marks, M. A., & Stout, C. (2011). Can the American dream survive the new multiethnic America? Evidence from Los Angeles1. Sociological Forum, 26(4), 824-845. doi: 10.1111/j.1573-7861.2011.01286.x

Hofstetterd, R., Normane, G. J., Irvina, V. L., Chhayc, D., Hovell, M. F., & Dinga, D. (2011). Measuring immigration stress of first-generation female Korean immigrants in California: Psychometric evaluation of demand of immigration scale. Ethnicity & Health,16(1), 11-24. doi: 10.1080/13557858.2010.523107

Kandel, W., Henderson, J., Koball, H., & Capps, R. (2011). Moving up in rural America: Economic attainment of nonmetro Latino immigrants. Rural Sociology, 76(1), 101-128. doi: 10.1111/j.1549-0831.2011.00047.x

Kim, S., Carvalho, J. P., Davis, A. G., & Mullins, A. M. (2011). The view of the border: News framing of the definition, causes, and solutions to illegal immigration. Mass Communication and Society, 14, 292-314. doi: 10.1080/152054310003743679

Rouse, S. M., Cutaia Wilkinson, B., & Garand, J. C. (2010). Dividing loyalties? Understanding variation in Latino attitudes toward immigration. Social Science Quarterly, 91(3), 856-882. doi: 10.1111/j.1540-6237.2010.00723.x

Wadsworth, T. (2010). Is immigration responsible for the crime drop? An assessment of the influence of immigration on changes in violent crime between 1990 and 2000. Social Science Quarterly, 91(2).