This country’s most intense debate in fifty years is happening today about immigration and our economy. National-security concerns are one element of this debate, but the anxiety over immigration from a broader set of countries beyond the Middle East is almost entirely economic: with wages stagnant until last year, and millions of jobs being lost to globalization and automation, Americans have asked how many immigrants we should continue to admit rather than taking better care of the people already here.
We often discuss this as a tradeoff between our melting-pot ideals and our pocketbooks, and speculate on how our economy will absorb different levels of immigration over the coming decades. But why speculate? 353 U.S. cities with populations of immigrants that vary from 1% of the population in Huntington, West Virginia, to 40% in Miami can tell us what the economic impact of immigration has already been.