National Data | Educating Illegals Costs $900 per American Child
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Because illegal aliens typically earn so much less than natives, their economic contribution is much less than their numbers would suggest— and immigration enthusiasts incessantly claim.

But illegal aliens' cost to the American taxpayer is another matter. For example, the children of illegal aliens are currently being educated at American taxpayer expense because of the Supreme Court's disastrous 1982 Plyler vs. Doe decision.  The expense of this is high and disproportionate:



  • The U.S.-born children of illegals, technically citizens by virtue of the current misinterpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment, could easily be twice that number (my conservative estimate, based on the overall ratio of children to immigrants—see table.) That's another 2.2 million.


  • At $8,745 per pupil (the average annual cost of K-12 public education in the U.S.) the cost of educating illegals and their children comes to $29 billion ($8,745 times 3.3 million children).



To put it another way, illegal aliens are imposing an additional cost amounting to $900 per American child (i.e. child of American-born parents) in the public school system.

What about the total impact of immigration on education? More than one in five K-12 students are immigrants (legal or illegal) or the children of immigrants. We know this thanks to the Current Population Survey, a sort of mini-census taken each month by the Census Bureau. The survey asks respondents if they are immigrants and if their parents were immigrants—legal status unspecified—thus allowing us to isolate the impact of immigration on school enrollment.

The October 2001 Survey shows:


  • 51.355 million children enrolled in K-12


  • 2.299 million foreign born children enrolled in K-12


  • 10.596 million children of foreign born enrolled in K-12


K-12 education now costs $415 billion, or 4% of GDP. Based on the enrollment figures, immigrants must account for at least one-fifth of this amount, or about $85 billion.

More importantly, immigration (legal and illegal) is responsible for virtually all the recent growth in school-age population. We can see this by comparing the CPS reports for October 1998 and October 2001. In that period:


  • The total number of school age children enrolled in K-12 grew by 621,000


  • Foreign born children enrolled in K-12 grew by 96,000


  • Children of foreign born enrolled in K-12 grew by 601,000


Four states—Florida, California, Texas, and Arizona—lead the nation in school-age population growth. (See tables.) Big surprise: these states are all among the most immigrant-impacted.

Just another example of the truth enunciated years ago by Nobel Laureate economist Milton Friedman: "It's just obvious you can't have free immigration and a welfare [i.e. transfer payment] state."

[Number fans click here for tables.]

Edwin S. Rubenstein (email him) is President of ESR Research Economic Consultants in Indianapolis.

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