Place-Based Visas Provide Pathways for Economic Development

A new report by the Economic Innovation Group (EIG) provides an in-depth analysis of the U.S. demographic trends and the consequences on certain impacted communities. Specifically, the report explores the relationship between the current immigration policy and the long-term economic development. As the population growth is consistently slowing down, many US communities struggle to manage their “human capital and entrepreneurial vitality.”

The report provides five key findings:

  • The United States is experiencing both low population growth and low prime working age growth occurring on a sustained basis at the same time;
  • Demographic stagnation patterns are not distributed equally across the country, with some counties falling behind at a dramatic rate;
  • Most U.S. counties, particularly the Northeast and Midwest, are experiencing a steady decline in prime working age adults;
  • Systemic disparities, including levels of educational attainment, between the low-growth and fast-growth counties will persist in the future; and
  • Negative effects of diminished population growth include declining economic, social, and demographic outcomes.

With no effective solutions, these trends are likely to stunt the U.S. long-term economic development and cause significant damage to vulnerable communities. To address some of these issues, the authors propose a new immigration framework designed to have a direct impact on struggling local economies. A new place-based Heartland Visa program represents an innovative solution to mitigating the effects of demographic stagnation.

By focusing on skilled immigrants, the program offers a flexible, additive, and voluntary pathway to eligible communities, thus injecting a necessary stimulus into economically viable parts of the country. Significantly, the authors emphasize that such a proposal might not be ideal for all communities. Instead, this framework suggests a possibility of revitalizing local economies by importing talent via a “more inclusive geography of economic growth and opportunity.”

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