The estimates of the net annual fiscal impact provided in Tables 6.2 to 6.7 provide a useful snapshot of the current fiscal consequences of today's immigrant-headed households on native residents in the United States. But also like a snapshot, these annual estimates cannot be used to criticize the past nor to predict the future. A simplistic use of the net annual fiscal impacts estimated here will be misleading for at least two reasons. First, both the native and current immigrant populations and the populations of newly admitted immigrants grow over time. The annual fiscal impact estimates provided here must be adjusted for these changing demographics if we are to accurately judge the fiscal burdens or benefits today of prior policies, or to predict the future burdens or benefits of today's choices. Second, annual estimates take people as they are today, but in the future native residents, current immigrants, and newly admitted immigrants will be people who differ both demographically and economically; their fiscal contributions or fiscal burdens will be different too. Children who consume services and pay no taxes today become contributing taxpayers tomorrow. Today's contributing adults will retire in the future and become net beneficiaries of government programs. Estimates of the current net annual fiscal impact of today's immigrant-headed households are not likely to give us very accurate information about the fiscal impact of today's immigrants 20 or more years from now.
The analysis here of the annual fiscal impact of today's immigrant households provides a starting point for understanding the future fiscal consequences of immigration. Predictions as to the long-term fiscal consequences of current or new immigration policies, however, must be based on a truly dynamic analysis of the fiscal incidence of immigration. Such a study must project the demographic and economic futures of current residents and new immigrants and the future paths of government spending, taxes, and debt policies. Only then will we have an honest representation of the long-run consequences of national immigration policies. Such estimates are provided in Chapter 7.
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