As the national debate on immigration heats up, there’s fresh evidence of how immigration make U.S. communities stronger and more vibrant. Among the latest additions is a report – Understanding the Impact of Immigration in Greater New Haven – by The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven and DataHaven that underscores the social, cultural, and economic benefits of immigration in the Greater New Haven region.
From 2000 to 2012, New Haven was the fastest-growing city in the state.
A positive influx of immigrants fed the rapid growth, even as the city lost native-born residents. By the latest tally, 17 percent of New Haven’s 130,000 residents are immigrants. Their origins, ages, skills, citizenship statuses, and personal stories are different, but their overall impact is clear: “The surge of immigration in recent years shows us yet again how important [immigrants are] to the growth and success of our community,” according to William W. Ginsberg, President & CEO of The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven. As seen in other cities, the report shows how immigrants contribute to New Haven’s resilience, revitalizing the community through economic and social investment.
Immigrants help sustain a dynamic workforce in Greater New Haven. Foreign-born people are more likely to be employed than native-born residents; further, there are two high-skilled immigrant workers for every low-skilled immigrant worker. All these people contribute to the local economy by paying taxes, supporting businesses, and increasing trade with foreign markets.The New Haven region study also shows that immigrants are frequent participants in local real estate, institutions, and economy – often at higher rates than native-born people. For example, naturalized citizens living in the city of New Haven are more likely to own a home (43 percent of households) than native-born citizens (32 percent). Since 2005, overall public school enrollment has decreased in Connecticut and in the Greater New Haven region, but it has grown among foreign-language speakers. Foreign-born people are substantially more likely than native-born people to own a business.
City-center neighborhoods in the region, many of which saw population declines in the 1980s and 1990s, are now experiencing residential and business growth due to immigration. Evidence from the report also suggests that the region’s people provide mutual support for immigrants – support which is crucial to the kind of integrated and inclusive community that’s built to face the challenges that the future might hold.
The study also reflects how immigrants strengthen communities. With their diversity of education, livelihood, and personal experiences, immigrants enhance a region’s ability to thrive no matter what stresses or shocks it may encounter. Indeed, diversity is one of the characteristics necessary for building resilience. When disaster strikes, a city needs redundancy, alternatives, and backups in the systems that keep it running – and it also needs to be able to call upon a wide range of citizens, possessing various capabilities and kinds of technical expertise, and drawing knowledge from a host of information sources.
The results of this report emphasize that removing barriers to full social, economic, and civic participation will allow immigrants to reach their individual potential and will bring the benefits of economic growth and cultural diversity to the community as a whole. Led by foundations, non-profit groups, and city initiatives that support the integration of foreign-born people and their families, New Haven can leverage its experience with immigration as a powerful asset on the journey towards resilience.