Cleveland Ohio has many charms, chief among this is the recognition that their immigrants are great for their economy. It may be that years of being a post-industrial city have something to do with this. It's not as if the city does not have a history of troubled race relations. Whatever the reason, it's a relief to see folks being reasonable.
Cleveland attracts the world's best, just not enough of them
November 30, 2009, 12:01AMCLEVELAND, Ohio -- The region's immigrant community, small in size, wields a mighty impact, according to a new national study.
Immigrants are responsible for about 7 percent of the Greater Cleveland economy, though they make up only 6 percent of the labor force, creating one of the few metro areas in America where immigrants contribute more to the economy than native-born workers. The region's immigrants are more likely than native-born residents to be working, are far more likely to start businesses and on average earn higher salaries.
Those details come from "Immigrants and the Economy: Contributions of Immigrant Workers to the Country's 25 Largest Metropolitan Areas," which is being released today by the Fiscal Policy Institute of New York through Policy Matters Ohio.
Researchers gauged the economic role of immigrants in the nation's 25 largest metropolitan areas by examining their earning power and their participation in the labor force. They found that, in most of urban America, immigrants contributed to the local economy in close proportion to their share of the population.
Only in metro Cleveland and Cincinnati did immigrants exhibit an "outsized economic impact," according to the study.
That's because metro Cleveland, like metro Cincinnati, tends to draw a select few.
Ohio's largest cities, hobbled by stagnant economies, are not attracting low-skilled immigrants in sizable numbers, researchers found. The cities do, however, lure immigrants sought by hospitals and research labs and engineering firms.
Thus do Northeast Ohio immigrants outshine immigrants elsewhere and outshine the locals.
"They're a relatively small community," said David Dyssegaard Kallick, a senior fellow at the Fiscal Policy Institute. "I think it's fair to say they're making an outsized contribution."
That insight could help to shape economic development strategies.
"We've got to really recognize what immigration means," said Piet van Lier, a senior researcher at Policy Matters Ohio.
The perception of immigrants as low-wage job takers is largely inaccurate, especially in Greater Cleveland, van Lier notes. The study paints a portrait of highly skilled workers who create jobs or bring rare and needed skills to Greater Cleveland, which the researchers define as Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake, Lorain and Medina counties, a geographical grouping that excludes Akron and Summit County.
Local immigrants are 6 percent of the local labor force but make up 15 percent of the people in professional specialties.
While the region draws talent, it is not drawing enough, the study indicates. Cities with faster immigrant growth are faring much better in the new economy.
"I think that you can clearly see that economic growth and immigrant growth go hand in hand," Kallick said. "When immigrants do come, they do expand the labor force and fuel that future growth. There is a symbiotic relationship between immigration and growth."