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Generational Accounting and Immigration in the United States

  • Alan J. Auerbach
  • Philip Oreopoulos

In recent years, the renewed strength of immigration to the United States has sparked a debate about the economic effects of immigration. A central issue in this debate has been the fiscal impact of immigrants. Most research in this area has adopted a static, cross-section approach in assessing the net impact of immigrants on the economy's fiscal position. However, a dynamic approach is important because of the age dependency of many government tax and expenditure programs, and necessary to take the descendents of immigrants into account. This paper reconsiders the fiscal impact of immigrants over time, using the technique of generational accounting. We may summarize our results with three findings: 1. Because new immigrants represent a larger fraction of future generations than of present ones, shifting the burden onto future generations also shifts it, relatively, onto new immigrants. Thus, if the entire fiscal imbalance currently estimated for the United States is placed on future generations, then the presence of new immigrants reduces the burden borne by natives. 2. When a policy of fiscal responsibility' is followed, whether there is a fiscal gain from immigration depends on the extent to which government purchases rise with the immigrant population. 3. The impact of immigration on fiscal balance is extremely small relative to the size of the overall imbalance itself. Thus, immigration should be viewed neither as a major source of the existing imbalance, nor as a potential solution to it.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 7041.

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Date of creation: Mar 1999
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Publication status: Published as "Tax Policy and Business Fixed Investment in the United States", Journal of Public Economics, Vol. 47, no. 2 (1992): 141-170.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:7041
Note: PE
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  1. Kotlikoff, L.J. & Raffelhuschen, B., 1999. "Generational Accounting around the Globe," Norway; Department of Economics, University of Bergen 195, Department of Economics, University of Bergen.
  2. Alan J. Auerbach & Jagadeesh Gokhale & Laurence J. Kotlikoff, 1991. "Generational Accounts: A Meaningful Alternative to Deficit Accounting," NBER Chapters, in: Tax Policy and the Economy, Volume 5, pages 55-110 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Auerbach, Alan J. & Kotlikoff, Laurence J. & Leibfritz, Willi (ed.), 1999. "Generational Accounting around the World," National Bureau of Economic Research Books, University of Chicago Press, edition 1, number 9780226032139.
  4. Fehr, Hans & Kotlikoff, Laurence J., 1995. "Generational accounting in general equilibrium," Tübinger Diskussionsbeiträge 47, University of Tübingen, School of Business and Economics.
  5. Philip Oreopoulos & Alan J. Auerbach, 1999. "Analyzing the Fiscal Impact of U.S. Immigration," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(2), pages 176-180, May.
  6. Jagadeesh Gokhale & Benjamin R. Page & John Sturrock, 1999. "Generational Accounts for the United States: An Update," NBER Chapters, in: Generational Accounting around the World, pages 489-518 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Alan J. Auerbach & Laurence J. Kotlikoff & Willi Leibfritz, 1999. "The Methodology of Generational Accounting," NBER Chapters, in: Generational Accounting around the World, pages 31-42 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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