For as much as immigration has been a hot-button issue in today’s political climate, its effects on the economy seem to have gone largely undiscussed.
Ken Louie sees that as an oversight.
When he was four, Louie, director of the Economic Research Institute of Erie (ERIE) and an associate professor of economics at Penn State Behrend’s Black School of Business, moved from Hong Kong to the United States with his parents.
The reason for their move was the same as it is for many of today’s immigrants: opportunity.
And when those like Louie’s family migrate to the United States, local economies often benefit, according to speakers and panelists at the 13th Annual ERIE Conference: The Impact of Immigration on the Local Economy, held Wednesday, July 27, on the campus of Penn State Behrend.
“Immigration seems to have a fairly positive effect on balance for our local economy,” Louie said. “We want to educate the public. We want the public to know the facts and to separate the facts from the fallacies.”
Dr. Pia Orrenius, a nationally-known expert on the economics of immigration pictured here with Louie, was the keynote speaker at the conference. Orrenius, vice president and senior economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, discussed how immigrants have an impact on economies at the regional level.
Her topic was especially relevant for Erie, a city with 12,000 immigrants and since 2003, more than 7,000 refugees have settled in the city.
“(In small cities like Erie), there’s going to be more access to credit, a lower cost of living, and the business transaction cost might be smaller, so it’s going to be easier to try (to pursue) opportunities,” Orrenius said.
Many immigrants nationally have done just that. According to Paul Jericho, associate director of Erie’s Multicultural Community Resource Center and one of the speakers at the ERIE Conference, immigrants start businesses at twice the rate of the average United States resident.
ERIE is a research and outreach center of the Black School of Business at Penn State Behrend. Every summer, ERIE hosts a themed conference on the Penn State Behrend campus that provides an overview of the national, international, and regional economies as well as up-to-date economic forecasts for the Erie area.