Immigration and Innovation
6:42 pm
Wed October 17, 2012

Study Shows Immigration May Boost St. Louis Economy

A Saint Louis University economist thinks he has found a key to growth for St. Louis.

Professor Jack Strauss presented his findings this afternoon from an economic study that shows a direct correlation between an increasing immigrant population and economic growth. The study was originally released in June.

He says he thinks it is likely that the city’s economic slump is partly due to a dwindling number of immigrants living in the area. Four and a half percent of St. Louis’ population is foreign. In other large cities, that number is closer to 18 percent.  

Strauss believes involving immigrants in our economy can prevent more jobs from being sent overseas.

“The economic literature has shown the way to keep companies here is allow them, sometimes, to hire the best from other places, and to have them move from India (and) China to here," Strauss said.

Strauss says immigrants with an entrepreneurial spirit can benefit the whole city through added jobs and tax revenue.

Anna Crosslin is the president and CEO of St. Louis’ International Institute. Her program helps foreign-born citizens establish themselves in the city.

Crosslin says the low number of new immigrants shows that they don’t think of the city as an inviting place to live.

“The problem is we have very few immigrants in St. Louis and so they don’t attract more immigrants,” Crosslin said. “If we were in Chicago or New York City or Los Angeles - there’s already lots of immigrants there, and so they’re naturally drawing more.”

Crosslin wants to make St. Louis more attractive for immigrants by simplifying the process to start new businesses and creating programs to bridge the gap between foreign-born citizens and locals.

Strauss and Crosslin are part of an immigration and innovation initiative in St. Louis. The program’s steering committee is taking a year to collect options on how to attract and keep immigrants before presenting these ideas to city and state leaders.