Image via AP/Paul Sancya, File

The key to the fast, high economic growth that Donald Trump has promised could be a group of people he hates more than anyone else: immigrants.

According to a new study conducted by an independent economics firm and reported on by ProPublica Wednesday, letting significantly more immigrants into the U.S. can grow the economy better than many other policy changes can.

The research–conducted by Adam Ozimek and Mark Zandi at Moody’s Analytics for ProPublica–shows that “for every 1 percent increase in U.S. population made of immigrants, GDP rises 1.15 percent,” ProPublica’s Lena Groeger wrote.

“So a simple way to get to Trump’s 4 percent GDP bump? Take in about 8 million net immigrants per year,” Groeger explained.

To help visualize the study’s findings, ProPublica published a tool that allows users to see how increasing or decreasing immigrants per year, or, alternatively, how deporting or legalizing undocumented immigrants would affect the economy.


The tool first shows you what would happen if the U.S. left immigration as it is, at its current levels. “GDP would reach $24.6 trillion in 2030,” the tool tells you. “Average growth would be 2 percent.”

Remember: Trump’s administration has promised 4 percent annual economic growth. So, simply keeping things the way they are isn’t going to do it.


Now: let’s have some fun.

Imagine a world where the current levels of immigration remain constant and all 7.1 million unauthorized immigrants don’t have to live in fear, and instead had a legal path towards citizenship.

What happens to the economy?

“We’d gain a cumulative $1.8 trillion in GDP over the next 14 years. Average growth would be 2.1 percent,” ProPublica’s chart tells me.


That’s at least a little closer to the White House’s economic goal.


And for comparison’s sake, the tool also calculates what would happen if the U.S. deported all unauthorized immigrants, as ICE seems eager to do.



“We’d lose a cumulative $7.9 trillion in GDP over the next 14 years. Average growth would be 1.8 percent,” the tool reports.

So if immigration remained at current levels and we deported all undocumented immigrants, we’d lose trillions of dollars and average growth would drop below current levels?


Kind of seems like a dumb idea!

These are interesting extremes to consider, but unlikely scenarios to actually happen in real life given the current administration’s attitude towards immigrants, and the immense resistance to its policies.

And all the charts I’ve shown you so far just keep immigration levels constant. If you increase the immigration rate to 5 million immigrants per year, over 14 years, the GDP would go up $31 trillion and average growth would hit 3.2%. Wow!


You can play with the tool yourself–adjusting for immigrants per year, legalization, and deportation–and read more about why and how increasing the number of immigrants helps grow the economy on ProPublica’s website.