Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Value of Immigration


The human family at irregular intervals seems to be seized with a mania for emigration. From the fact that love of one’s self and one’s family has a more controlling influence over mankind than the love of country from the remotest ages down to our own day political, religious, and social persecution and a general lack of material prosperity have sent out colonies and individuals from their native soil to seek a home and a future in foreign lands. It is to the combination of these causes that this country owes its origin. In the earlier part of this century the condition of the poor in European Countries was so intolerable that they were glad to come to America at any price, and to this end mortgaged the labor of their hands to secure their passage money. This custom which induced a species of slavery has, fortunately now ceased to exist, although the flood of emigration is constantly on the increase. It is with some satisfaction that an American discovers that, of all the countries in the world, his own is the one that is the favorite land of the emigrants. There are other regions which in fertility of soil, mildness of climate, and many other natural advantages fully equal and in some sense surpass, the physical advantages of this country; but the peculiar conditions of our political and social life, combined with abundant natural advantages, unite to attract the greatest aggregate of emigration to our shores.

Some German statisticians have recently undertaken to discover the capital value of immigration to this country, and we shall here endeavor briefly to state the interesting results of their investigations. In 1856 it was discovered that the average cash capital of each of the 142,342 immigrants of that year amounted to $68.08. But having become evident that such computations were very inadequate and unreliable on account of concealment of large amounts, through ignorance of the intent of the inquiries, this method of examination has been abandoned. It was, however, estimated that from 1854-’57 German immigrants alone brought in to the country annually an average of about $11,000,000. The several German governments keep a careful statistical account of the amount of money carried away by each emigrant, and from these official tables this amount is verified.

But these new comers bring other things than money. Their clothing, books, and tools, together with their average cash capital, it is believed, will make the total value of the property of each emigrant $150. During the year 1869 the total arrivals at the one port of New York, at which port, however, most of the emigrants land, was about 250,000, who added to the national wealth not much less than $37,500,000 in available capital. Each emigrant has an economic value aside from his ready, or convertible capital. One of the German statisticians, from whom we obtain our facts, divides the economic life of every individual into three periods: two unproductive, and one productive period. The first period is unproductive, extending to the fifteenth year and including the raising and education. The second, reaching from the fifteenth to the sixty-fifth year, is the fruitful time of life, and the third period, comprehending the decline of life, is productive of little but outlay, pain and sorrow. Since man, on arriving at the productive period of his life is in debt to his parents and the State, he must see to it that in those fleeting years he liquidate the expenses incurred for his support and education, supply himself with his current wants, and lay in store something for that evil day when he enters upon his second childhood. Tried by these standards an immigrant is worth to this country as much as it costs to raise and educate an average native laborer of the same ability. A skilled laborer is worth very much more than an unskilled laborer. It is estimated that the cost of raising a manual laborer in Germany for the first five years of his life is forty thalers, for the next five years fifty thalers, and from the eleventh to the fifteenth year sixty thalers, or a total of 750 thalers. By a similar computation the average cost of raising an American farmer is $1,500. An American girl, it is supposed costs only half as much, or $750, because her services are made available at an earlier period in the household. Making due allowance for the fact that one-fifth of the immigrants are less than fifteen years old, which is balanced by the excess of males over females, and by the skilled laborers, it is found that the average value of every person of either sex is $1,125. The number of emigrants who arrived at the port of New York from May 5, 1847 to January 1, 1869, is about 4,038,991. If to the average cost of $1,125 be added the average value of personal property owned by each emigrant, $150 per head, the national wealth has been increased by immigration more than $5,000,000,000. These figures seem even more startling when the daily amount of increase from this source is considered. The average annual rate of immigration to this country at present is in round numbers 300,00 persons, which is a total benefit to the country of almost $400,00,00, something more than one million each day.

Some curious facts have been discovered by computing the probable population of the country had it been the policy of the government to exclude foreigners from our shores. In the absence of immigration the gain of population would be represented by the increase of births over deaths, which is at the rate of 1.38 per cent. This would have given us in 1865 a population of 9,000,000, instead of 30,000,000, which was the actual number. This shows that the population of foreign extraction gained by the United States since 1790 is 20,965,755. In other words “immigration has enabled this country to anticipaye its natural growth some forty years.”

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