Why Immigrants Matter

Between 1870 and 1920, about 25 million immigrants arrived in America.  These immigrants were at the source of early 20th Century midwestern industrial innovation that propelled America’s industrial growth. These laborers and entrepreneurs contributed to the creation of Detroit automobiles and Pittsburgh steel, and they continue to be a significant part of the regions that serve as economic catalysts in today’s world.

The decline of the industrial economy resulted in Metropolitan regions across the Rust Belt experiencing slow or declining population growth and economic stagnation.  This is due in large part to the lost of manufacturing jobs resulting in crippled local economies, and the aging and out-migration of the native-born population, and many of these regions continue to struggle with these issues today.

Over the last half-decade, a movement of local immigrant-welcoming and immigrant-focused economic development initiatives has been created and is beginning to define the national character around immigration. These initiatives are rooted in the fact that immigrant communities expand economic opportunities and revitalize regions.  The Rust Belt region is well positioned to take advantage of immigration to reinvigorate its communities – to infuse local economies with new businesses and talent, to attract and retain newcomers, and to be competitive in the global economy.

What the Research Says