The Costs of Illegal Immigration to Pennsylvanians (2009)

The Fiscal Burden of Illegal Immigration on United States Taxpayers, a new detailed fiscal cost study issued in 2010, supersedes the earlier state estimates in this study. The new estimate includes some cost areas not included in the state study below. This earlier state fiscal cost study remains on the website solely for comparison and because it also provides sources and methods of fiscal cost analysis that are not available with the new study.


Executive Summary

Pennsylvania has a rapidly growing illegal alien population of about 140,000 persons, nearly tripling since 2000.1 Between 2000 and 2008, the state’s foreign-born population has grown by 34.5 percent while its native-born population has decreased by 0.1 percent. Similarly, public school enrollment of students who require special instruction in English has also soared, rising by 187 percent from 1993 to 2006.

Pennsylvania’s illegal alien population represents a major burden on the state’s taxpayers and on the state budget. The costs imposed on law-abiding Pennsylvanians are unfair and unwelcome even in the best of times, but are especially burdensome at a time when the state ended the 2008-09 Fiscal Year with a $3.25 billion revenue deficit which has led to a proposed three-year temporary increase of one-half percent in the state’s personal income tax. In 2008, the foreign-born population in Pennsylvania represented nearly one in every 18 residents (5.5%), and illegal aliens constitute about one-third (34%) of that immigrant population.

Pennsylvania’s illegal immigrant population costs the state’s taxpayers about $728 million per year for education, medical care and incarceration. The annual fiscal burden amounts to about $150 per Pennsylvania household headed by a native-born resident.

In addition to the fiscal cost estimates in this study, there are additional costs associated with illegal immigration that should be kept in mind by policymakers when they focus on this fiscal cost burden. Foreign remittances sent abroad by the illegal alien population also constitute a major drain on the state’s economy. The Inter-American Development Bank estimated that remittances from Pennsylvania just to Latin America and the Caribbean amounted to $517 million in 2006. If this amount had been earned by American workers, it would have been spent locally, and it would have generated sales, production and jobs in the state as well as increased tax collection.

The about $728 million dollars in costs incurred by Pennsylvania taxpayers annually result from outlays in the following areas:

Based on estimates of the illegal immigrant population in Pennsylvania and documented costs of K-12 schooling, Pennsylvanians spend about $660 million annually on education for an estimated 48,500 children of illegal aliens. That amount includes the cost of about $150 million to provide special English instruction to an estimated 34,200 children of illegal aliens. About 2.7 percent of the K-12 public school students in Pennsylvania are children of illegal aliens.

Health Care
Taxpayer-funded, unreimbursed medical outlays for health care provided to the state’s illegal alien population amount to about $50 million a year.

The cost of incarcerating illegal aliens in Pennsylvania’s state, county, and independent city prisons amounts to more than $17.5 million a year — not including related law enforcement and judicial expenses or the monetary costs of the crimes that led to the incarceration.

Some state and local taxes are received from illegal immigrants — even from those working off the books. But, those same tax collections, or more likely an increased amount, would occur if the jobs were done by legal workers. So, unless it is illogically assumed that no legal U.S. or immigrant or foreign guestworker would do the jobs now done by illegal workers, it makes little sense to consider this a true offset to the tax burden. The estimated amount of the taxes currently collected from the illegal workers is about $178 million per year.

The fiscal costs of illegal immigration to Pennsylvania’s taxpayers do not end with these three major cost areas. They would be considerably higher if other cost areas such as assistance programs for needy families or welfare benefits for American workers displaced by illegal alien workers or lost or depressed wages were included in the calculation.

The current proposal to adopt an amnesty for the illegal aliens would not lessen the burden if enacted. Rather, it would increase the access of this population to additional social welfare benefits and allow them to legally apply for the state’s reverse tax benefit known as the Earned Income Tax Credit.

Read the full report in pdf format.

July 2009