RM Podcast: CHF Report Shows Immigration Will Fuel Houston's Economic Growth

During a recent Rational Middle Podcast, Steven Scarborough, Strategic Initiatives Manager at the Center for Houston’s Future (CHF), discussed CFH’s updated research on how immigration rates will affect the Greater Houston Area’s future economic growth.  

Scarborough said that overall, the CHF’s report found that immigration rates and economic growth are directly correlated, and that immigration will be necessary to fuel Houston’s economic growth in the coming decades.

Projecting GDP for 2040, a restricted immigration scenario with 30 percent less immigration causes a $47 billion economic loss and an increased immigration scenario with 30 percent more immigration produces a $62 billion economic gain from the status quo,” Scarborough said.

He also explained that the report found recent drastic declines in immigration following COVID-19 have already had a significant negative impact on their models for Houston’s future economic growth.

Recent declines in immigration rates depressed the projected economic benefits for the region from immigration: While our 2019 report indicated a $67 billion GDP benefit under the increased immigration scenario, this figure dropped by 7 percent to $62 billion when the Center ran the model in 2021,” said Scarborough.

The report also explained that a key reason immigrants fuel economic growth in Houston is that they are a source of population growth to fill workforce demands where native born workers in the region continue to experience a decrease in population growth rates.

Immigrants already make up nearly one-third of the region’s workforce. With employment growth among native citizens below 2 percent, Houston will need foreign immigration to continue expanding economically… Between 2019 and 2040, two in every five jobs added within the region will be filled by foreign-born workers,” said Scarborough.

Based on the reports updated immigration numbers, it also predicts that the immigrant share of Houston’s workforce will grow from 31% in 2019, to 36% in 2040.

Scarborough also highlighted some of the numbers from the CHF report that detail the large and growing share that immigrants make up of sector-specific workforces in the Houston Area. For example, in 2019 the immigrant share of labor in Houston’s energy sector was 29%, but it is expected to grow to 45% by 2040.


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