Commentary, NC Budget and Tax Center

Recent executive actions and rhetoric could weaken North Carolina’s economy

Recent executive actions and words are likely to cost more lives than they save, and they are already eroding the United States’ standing as a bulwark for democracy and human rights. Beyond the social and political consequences, these decisions could have profound and long-lasting economic ramifications as well.

As we documented in a report from 2015, immigrants are essential to the economic health of communities across North Carolina, both rural and urban. Among other important economic facts, the report provides evidence for three central economic lessons that we should keep in mind right now.

Welcoming communities are more prosperous: On average, counties with large immigrant populations have lower unemployment rates, lower levels of poverty, and higher wages than counties with few immigrants. Even just comparing among rural communities, counties with larger immigrant populations generally fare better than counties with fewer immigrant residents.

Immigrants are essential to the small business community: Main street North Carolina would suffer dramatically if immigrants were not swelling the ranks of willing local entrepreneurs. More than 20% of Main Street business owners in North Carolina are immigrants and immigrants account for more than 80% of the new Main Street business owners since 2000. The next time you drive down Main Street, or visit your local shopping mall, imagine what it would look like if 4 out of every 5 business opened since 2000 were still shuttered.

Revitalizing neighborhoods and reversing population decline: Both as entrepreneurs and residents, immigrants have helped to breathe renewed life into communities across the state. The majority of immigrants live in North Carolina’s urban areas, but some of the most profound local benefits have been felt in small towns and rural communities where immigrants have muted or reversed population decline and bolstered local economies. In fact, nine of the ten counties that have seen at least a tenfold increase in immigrant residents since 1990 are in rural parts of the state.

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