Curtailing Immigration Could Cost Houston Billions In GDP

New research shows how restrictive immigration policies could hurt the city’s future economic growth.

Photo of Houston skyline
Skyline of Houston, Texas.

A report by the Center for Houston's Future explores what the city's economy would look like in 2036 depending on whether immigration is limited or encouraged.

Cutting immigration by 30% could lose the city $51 billion in GDP, the research shows.

But if immigration to the region increases by 30%, GDP could grow by $67 billion in 2036, Houston’s 200th anniversary.


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Center for Houston's Future CEO Brett Perlman said for the city to continue to grow economically, immigration is increasingly important.

"By 2036 immigrants are going to hold 43% of the region's jobs and 57% of the new jobs created will be filled by immigrants," he said.

The Center’s research also shows if local immigration trends continue, fields like agriculture, transportation and public administration will employ a majority of foreign-born workers in 20 years.

Research released in conjunction with the Center for Houston’s Future report also shows that immigrants in Houston proportionately contribute more to the metro area's GDP than native-born citizens.


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The think-tank New American Economy found immigrants in Houston produced 26% of the local GDP — more than their share of the population. Houston's 1.6 million immigrants make up less than a quarter of the people who live in the metro area.

Researcher Andrew Lim said they also represent nearly a third of the local workforce.

"Immigrants in Houston make up an even larger share of the workforce and that has a lot to do with their demographic profile. They're more likely to be of working age so they're not too old, they're not too young, they're kind of just right in terms of their ability to contribute to the economy," said Lim.

The report also found immigrants are more likely to work hard-to-fill jobs in fields like construction and STEM.

Mayor Sylvester Turner speaks in favor of protecting immigrants at a Rice University event on the future of immigration in Houston.

The new research was introduced at an immigration summit at Rice University’s Baker Institute.

At the summit, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner reiterated his desire to encourage immigration to the city and said immigrants are important drivers of the local economy.

He said people looking at the cost of immigrants should also note what the city gains, like workers in hard-to-fill fields including construction.

"You can have money to build a home but if you don't have the workforce, the labor force, you're gonna wait. It slows everything down," said Turner.

He said Houston cannot be a city of opportunity without its immigrant workforce.