Why We Need DACA: The Contributions of DACA DREAMers to the US Economy
There are about 1.3 million DACA-eligible immigrants to the United States, but many are reluctant to register for DACA benefits because they fear that the private information they provide will be used to deport them instead of assist them. Nevertheless, a slight majority — about 700,000 — have registered for the program.
The registration of DACA-eligible immigrants has been very uneven, however — the Migration Policy Institute, for example, estimates that one percent of DACA-eligible Vietnamese nationals, three percent of Chinese nationals, and 13 percent of Indian nationals registered for DACA benefits in 2018.
Regardless of their registration status, these immigrants play an important but largely unappreciated role in bolstering the US economy.
Earnings and Earning Potential
Because DACA was issued relatively recently (during the Obama administration), and because its eligibility is limited to people who were people aged 31 or younger at the time the DACA executive order was issued in 2012, DACA recipients tend to be young. Most are of working age, and most of the rest will reach working age within a few years at most.
Many of the younger DACA-eligible immigrants are enrolled in school, indicating that they have yet to reach their full earning potential. Nevertheless, by 2017 over 93 percent of DACA-eligible immigrants were employed.
According to the New American Economy Research Fund, DACA-eligible immigrants collectively earn more than $20 billion per year, most of which is either paid out in taxes or spent in the US economy. This amount almost certainly understates the contributions these people would make if their status was stabilized by supportive Congressional legislation.
DREAMers in Essential Industries
About 45 percent of DACA-eligible immigrants — more than half a million people— work in in essential industries, a rate more than twice as high as the US population as a whole:
Over 60,000 work in healthcare, including about 24,000 who work in hospitals. Over 13,000 work as health aides; another 10,000 work as nurses and over 6,000 work as medical assistants. Many are fighting on the front lines of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Over 160,000 work in essential food and restaurant services.
Over 20,000 work in supermarkets.
Around 14,000 work in agriculture, helping to guarantee the nation’’s food supply.
Over 100,000 work in the construction industry.
Entrepreneurship and Job Creation
A nationwide survey found that among DACA recipients (people who have registered for DACA), about five percent started their own business after receiving DACA benefits. This number climbs to eight percent among DACA recipients who are 25 years and older. Since many of these new DACA businesses employ American workers, it might be fruitful to compare these figures with the three percent entrepreneurship rate among the US population as a whole.
Over 60 percent of US jobs are in the service sector, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics The retail, healthcare, and hospitality sectors combined provide over 135 million jobs. The service-oriented nature of the US economy means that a strong consumer base is a critical element of national prosperity.
Due to their sheer numbers as well as their presence in the US, DACA-eligible immigrants are an important part of the consumer base of the US economy.
DACA-eligible immigrants collectively possess substantial spending power in terms of discretionary income. — how much income is left over after paying taxes. DACA-eligible immigrants enjoyed over $19 billion in spending power in 2017. That number continues to grow, as young DACA-eligible immigrants graduate from school and enter the workforce.
Tax Contributions of DACA-Eligible Workers
DACA-eligible immigrants pay over $2 billion dollars in taxes to the federal government, in addition to almost that much in state and local taxes. These taxes are used to fund public schools, police forces, sanitation services and other vital functions.
Despite their significant tax contributions, DACA-eligible immigrants do not use many public services, if for no reason other than the fact that they are ineligible for most of them. DACA-eligible immigrants are ineligible for the following public benefits, regardless of whether they have registered for DACA benefits:
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (“food stamps”);
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (“welfare”);
Health insurance purchased on Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) marketplaces;
Federal student aid;
In-state tuition (in most states);
Non-emergency Medicaid benefits; and
Social Security Supplemental Income (SSI).
Rescinding DACA Will Harm the US Economy
High employment rates, high tax contributions and minimal use of public benefits mean that DACA-eligible immigrants contribute much more than they take from the US economy — and that the US economy would suffer from the loss of the services they provide.