Multi-American | How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Is the DREAM Act good for the economy?

Robert Huffstutter/Flickr (Creative Commons)

A recent study by UCLA's North American Integration and Development Center examined the future earning potential and economic input of the estimated 825,000 now-undocumented youths who stand to benefit from the DREAM Act, proposed legislation that would allow a path to legal status for college students and military enlistees.

The conclusion, from a report released this week: An estimated $1.4 trillion current dollars in income generated by DREAM Act beneficiaries over 40 years.

From the report:

In this study, we examine two scenarios. In the first, we calculate the income that the lower-bound estimated 825,000 beneficiaries would generate over a 40-year period, representative of the work life of a 25- to 65-year-old employed individual. In our second scenario, called “No DREAMers Left Behind,” we analyze the income that would be generated in the same 40-year period if the entire group of 2.1 million potential beneficiaries could successfully meet the education or military service requirement.

By observing the educational attainment of the Latino population (which represents over 80 percent of the total potential beneficiary cohort, according to the MPI) and applying those trends to the 825,000 eligible individuals in the MPI scenario, our study concludes that the income generated over 40 years would be $1.4 trillion in current dollars (actual income would be significantly higher if inflation over 40 years is taken into account).

In the No DREAMers Left Behind scenario, 2.1 million undocumented immigrants would become legalized and generate approximately $3.6 trillion over the same 40-year period (also in current dollars).

The report also points out a potential advantage for U.S. taxpayers, with the legislation representing "an opportunity for American taxpayers to significantly increase the return on our current, and already spent, investment in youths that the public school system educates in their K-12 years."

A vote on the Development, Relief and Education of Alien Minors (DREAM) Act is expected soon.