Study: Immigrant contributions a boon to Medicare

A new study reveals that immigrants' contributions to Medicare generated a $115 billion surplus from 2002 to 2009

Published May 30, 2013 12:35PM (EDT)


A new Harvard Medical School study reveals that immigrants' contributions to Medicare generated a $115 billion surplus from 2002 to 2009; the American-born population sustained a $28 billion deficit over the same period, researchers found.

While immigrant and American-born individuals contributed roughly the same amount, immigrants, overall, received significantly less than they paid in because of age disparities between the two populations, as the New York Times notes: "The median age of Hispanics, whose foreign-born contingent is by far the largest immigrant group, is 27, according to the Brookings Institution. The median age of non-Hispanic whites in the United States is 42."

The Times goes on to report:

The findings shed light on what demographers have long known: Immigrants are crucial in balancing the age structure of American society, providing an infusion of young, working-age adults who support the country’s aging population and help cover the costs of Medicare and Social Security. And with the largest generation in the United States, the baby boomers, now starting to retire, the financial help from immigrants has never been more needed, experts said.

The study's findings run contrary to the popularly touted notion that immigrants are a burden on federal health care spending, experts say. “There’s this strong belief that immigrants are takers,” Leighton Ku, the director of the Center for Health Policy Research at George Washington University told the Times. “This shows they are contributing hugely. Without immigrants, the Medicare trust fund would be in trouble sooner.”

By Katie McDonough

Katie McDonough is Salon's politics writer, focusing on gender, sexuality and reproductive justice. Follow her on Twitter @kmcdonovgh or email her at

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Health Care Immigrant Rights Immigration Immigration Reform Medicare