Demographic and population trends are emerging as a powerful headwind for the U.S. economy and struggling regions in particular. These trends exacerbate spatial inequality as some regions pull ahead and others fall further behind. Population growth has slowed, the number of prime working age people (25-54) is stagnating, and the country is aging rapidly. Such demographic decline reverberates through housing markets, municipal finances, and even startup rates, making it harder for struggling regions to turnaround. Sixty-one million Americans now live in counties with stagnant or shrinking populations, and 80 percent of U.S. counties, home to 149 million Americans, lost prime working age adults from 2007 to 2017.
Our greatest advantage as a nation is that people from around the world see the United States as a beacon of opportunity. Immigration policy is one of the few options available to address seismic demographic changes and the socioeconomic problems they cause, which is why the Economic Innovation Group supports policies that attract global talent as a way to jumpstart the economic growth in America’s left-behind regions.
Specifically, EIG’s Heartland Visa proposal would establish a new visa category for struggling counties to attract skilled immigrants. This program would be voluntary for counties, and eligibility would be limited to counties confronting chronic population stagnation or loss as a means of boosting economic dynamism and fiscal stability. EIG is also supportive of a Startup Visa that would spur entrepreneurship by creating a new visa category for foreign-born entrepreneurs to legally immigrate to the United States to start and grow their businesses. Ultimately, attracting higher levels of skilled immigration is crucial in order to mitigate demographic decline and promote a dynamic, entrepreneurial economy.