The Dollars And Cents Of Immigrant Workers In Idaho

Jan 26, 2012

BOISE, ID – Put aside for a second the debate over immigration reform.  Instead, focus on dollars and cents:  What would happen to Idaho’s economy with less foreign-born workers?  One scenario concludes the impact would be in the hundreds of millions of dollars.  That’s what some lawmakers in the state legislature heard today

It’s the first study to look at the economic impact of foreign-born workers in Idaho.  That’s according to Brent Olmstead.  He’s a lobbyist for a group called the Idaho Business Coalition for Immigration.

Brent Olmstead:  “There were some studies done in other states, different populations, different types of industry segments but nothing here in Idaho.”

That is, until the state Dairy Association funded a study by the University of Idaho.  Economists ran a model to figure out what would happen if the number of immigrant workers in Idaho fell.   The University’s Priscilla Salant presented this research Thursday to state lawmakers who work on agricultural issues.

Priscilla Salant:  “The overall labor force and the economy as a whole, the model estimates, would pay a significant economic price.”

In the scenario Salant outlined, a 25 percent drop in Idaho’s immigrant labor force would result in several thousand jobs for native-born workers.  But net jobs lost would total 17,300.  That translates to a $430 million plunge for Idaho’s economy every year.

Copyright 2012 Boise State Public Radio