Study: All Immigration Is A Net Benefit For Indiana

A Ball State University study claims immigrants are net contributors, not detractors, from the nation and state’s social welfare and public assistance programs.

(Muncie, Ind.) - A study claims immigrants are having a positive impact on Indiana, especially in rural communities.

The study from the Indiana Communities Institute and Center for Business and Economic Research at Ball State University found that 25 percent of the population growth in Indiana between 2000 and 2015 was due to increasing immigration.

In recent years, almost 32 percent of Indiana immigrants have come from Mexico, about 9 percent from India, and 8 percent from China.

Study co-author Emily Wornell, a research assistant professor with the Indiana Communities Institute, says Indiana has become a “new immigrant destination” with a large increase in its immigrant population since 1990.

“Immigration in Indiana is fiscally, educationally, and demographically important, and likely marks an environment of increasing economic opportunity,” Wornell said. “Overall, we find that immigration, regardless of authorization status, is an important source of fiscal, economic, and demographic health for Indiana’s future.”

Researchers say immigration has stabilized declining population in 19 Indiana counties, which is important for employers and schools in rural areas.

“Immigrants may represent the best chance for population growth in these communities in the foreseeable future. These newcomers will bolster the local job markets, fill up classrooms, and become contributing members to our communities,” said Wornell.

The study bucks fears that immigrants drive down wages and are drags on public services. From 2002 through 2016, the study found no impact on that wages of incumbent workers, while there was only a modest impact on the wages of new hires. Specifically, workers with a high school diploma or less saw modest declines in wages—$48 and $69 per month for less than high school and high school graduates respectively—due to increased competition.

The study also found that better-educated workers actually saw their wages increase. Those with some college education saw wages increase by $278 per month, while those with a bachelor’s degree or higher saw $414 more per month.

Immigrants are better-educated than native Hoosiers, the study claims to a degree. Approximately 24 percent of the native-born population had a college degree in 2016, while 30 percent of the foreign-born population had earned a college degree or higher. More than half of foreign-born degrees were graduate degrees. By contract, less than nine percent of the native population had earned a graduate degree by 2016.

But, immigrants are also concentrated at the lower end of the education spectrum. In 2016, 30 percent of the foreign-born population over age 25 had less than a high school diploma, compared to less than 11 percent of the native Indiana population.

Immigrants are net contributors, not detractors, from the nation and state’s social welfare and public assistance programs. According to the study, not only do immigrants, including unauthorized workers, pay into the public service system through income, payroll, sales, and property taxes, they tend use fewer services than the native-born population, and receive less benefit when they do use services.

Michael Hicks, director of the Ball State University’s Center for Business and Economic Research and co-author of the study, said the analysis makes it clear that immigration into Indiana, including unauthorized immigrants, is a net benefit to the state and should be welcomed in every county and municipality.

“At the same time, we acknowledge that there may be costs to some locations and populations. However, these costs appear to be transient, affecting only starting wages for workers with a high school diploma or less. We find no long term negative impact on wages,” Hicks added.

You can view the full report, “Fiscal, Economic, & Social effects of Immigration in the Hoosier State,” at

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