How do illegal immigrants fit into the American economy?

The Migration Policy Institute issued in November a study of “The Economics and Policy of Illegal Immigration in the United States”, by Gordon H. Hanson of University of California-San Diego. Hanson is an expert in transnational immigration. Illegal immigrant workers, now numbering about 8.3 million, are mostly from Mexico and mostly have not completed high school. How do these illegal workers fit into the American economy? Hanson asks.
He writes that illegal immigrants add 0.03% to the gross domestic product, and cost 0.1% in educational and healthcare expenses (by far the leading economic burdens these worker households impose). This means they are a 0.7% drag on the economy, or about $10 billion. Border control expenses of the federal government is $9.5 billion.
He writes that they make up much of the ranks of poorly educated workers. “Over the last 50 years, the United States has raised the education level of its adult population dramatically. Whereas in 1960 half of US-born working-age adults had not completed high school, today the figure is just 8 percent….Forty- seven percent of unauthorized immigrants between 25 and 64 years of age have not completed the equivalent of a US high school education; they account for 20 percent of working-age adults in the United States with less than a high school degree.
“In 2008, they represented 25 percent of farm workers, 19 percent of building and maintenance staff, 17 percent of construction labor, 12 percent of employees in food preparation and serving, 10 percent of production labor, and 5 percent of the total civilian labor force.”
(These figures are from Jeffrey S. Passel and D’Vera Cohn, A Portrait of Unauthorized Immigrants in the United States (Washington, DC: Pew Hispanic Center, 2009).

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