UNDERSTANDING SOCIAL SECURITY: Does Immigration Help Or Hurt It?

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BY MICHAEL P. BOYLE, ESQ./ Congress is currently contemplating legislation to update immigration policies and procedures.

In response to an inquiry made by Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, one of the Senate sponsors of immigration reform, the chief actuary for SSA, Stephen C. Gross, in a letter dated May 8, 2013, discussed the impact of reform on Social Security revenues.

According to Gross, SSA “estimate[s] a significant increase in both the population and the number of workers paying taxes in the United States as a result of … changes in legal immigration limits.”

Gross estimated there are about 11.5 million individuals currently in the United States who lack “current legal documentation”, of whom about 8 million will apply for and be granted Registered Provisional Immigrant status. According to Gross, “Many of these individuals already work in the country in the underground economy, not paying taxes, and will begin paying taxes upon application for RPI.”

Gross reported the immigration bill would boost SSA revenues by more than $242 billion net from 2014 to 2024 and add more than $64 billion in new tax revenues to Medicare. It also would increase the size of the economy by a full percentage point by 2017, and by 1.75% by 2024.

Gross wrote the overall effect of the bill on the long-range trust fund balance ‘‘will be positive.’’

Gross added SSA “estimate[s] that the measures in the bill for enforcement of border control and for employment verification will have significant effects on the future number of individuals entering the country without legal authorization … [and] will reduce the number entering the country without authorization by about half a million per year by the time the measures are fully implemented.”

Gross noted SSA is working on developing a 75-year estimate of the bill’s impact, and concluded, “additional births for the increased population under this bill will have substantial positive effects.”

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