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A Fresh Look at Immigration for an Aging Society

New Reform Institute White Paper Examines the Vital Role of Immigration to the U.S. Economy as the Baby Boomers Retire.

Alexandria, VA, December 01, 2008 --( As the economy has risen to the top of the national agenda, immigration has dropped as a voter concern. However, a new paper from the non-partisan Reform Institute illustrates how the two issues are intertwined. While the present economic crisis requires attention and action, an even greater economic challenge, posed by the aging of our society, lies directly ahead. As we seek to recover from the current recession, the onset of the aging effects may hold back our recovery, due to a mounting fiscal deficit, workforce shortages, and weakened housing demand. Old Promises and New Blood: How Immigration Reform Can Help America Prosper in the Face of Baby Boomer Retirement highlights the essential role that immigration will play in the coming decades to strengthen the resilience of America’s economy against the impending demographic tsunami.

The report details how two major forces – the aging of the baby boomers and the settlement and advancement of foreign-born residents – will shape our economic future. An aging society imperils three basic promises that are at the heart of America’s economic success: a secure retirement for seniors; an ample and capable workforce for employers; and a vibrant housing market for families. The infusion of new blood that immigration represents will be critical to mitigating the harmful consequences of the three perils to long-term growth and prosperity.

“While it is not currently a concern for most Americans, the rising senior ratio represents a defining challenge for the United States,” according to Dr. Dowell Myers, the author of the paper and a prominent demographer at the University of Southern California. “As the baby boomers retire, Americans will experience the effects through mounting entitlement expenditures and national debt, a depleted workforce, and a housing market saturated with houses for sale. Confronting the effects of an aging society must be a major focus of public policy, garnering at least as much attention as issues such as global warming. How we as a society deal with immigration will significantly affect the severity of the phenomenon’s consequences.”

The senior ratio is the number of residents ages 65 and older divided by all persons of prime working age, 25 to 64. This ratio has remained relatively steady in recent decades and currently stands at about 24 seniors per 100 working age adults. However, with the first baby boomers set to reach age 65 in 2011, the ratio is poised to soar in the next couple of decades, reaching 41 seniors per 100 working age residents. With the leading edge of this monumental demographic shift just around the corner, it is imperative to comprehend the implications and how immigration can assuage the detrimental effects.

Peril 1: The Entitlement Crisis and Fiscal Debt
The predicament of Social Security due to the retirement of the boomers has received a great deal of attention in recent years, but a graying population will have an even deeper impact on Medicare. The explosion in entitlement expenditures due to the retirement of a significant portion of the population will produce an unsustainable strain on an already over-extended federal budget.

Peril 2: The Workforce Crisis
Baby boomers leaving the workforce en masse through retirement will cause workforce growth to virtually stagnate, which will severely hamper overall economic growth. There are simply not enough native-born workers to replace the retirees.

Peril 3: The Coming Home Sellers Crisis
Just as the U.S. recovers from the current housing quandary, it is likely to face a deeper and longer-lasting crisis owing to the mounting senior ratio. In the coming decades a glut in the housing market could arise as older Americans put up their homes for sale and there are too few younger Americans available to purchase them.

Old Promises and New Blood is the latest effort on the part of the Reform Institute to inform the often heated immigration debate and fix our dysfunctional immigration system in a manner that balances security with satisfying the long-term needs of our workforce and economy. “This paper compellingly lays out the contributions that immigration can and must make to the future growth and competitiveness of our economy and its resilience in the face of colossal challenges,” stated Reform Institute Executive Director Cecilia Martinez.

The paper is available on the Institute’s website at Information regarding the Reform Institute’s efforts on comprehensive immigration reform is also available at To arrange to speak with Reform Institute experts, please contact Chris Dreibelbis at 703-535-6897 x 12 or via email at

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