A new study out of Duke University has found that wealth held in the United States is much more global in source than previously thought, and Canadians are near the top of the list of foreign-born wealth holders.
The study, published recently in the journal PLOS ONE, found that little data has been kept about the national origin of wealth holders. The authors conducted their own research by using two publicly available datasets, the Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF) and the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) to estimate the prevalence of immigrants amongst the richest American households. What they found was in one way unsurprising: that many of the top wealth holders in the U.S. are white. The surprising thing they discovered it that “significant” numbers of rich categorized as white natives are, in fact, immigrants.
“In the top one percent of wealth holders, approximately 3% are European and Canadian immigrants,” reports the study. “Consistent with historic patterns of immigration, our results suggest that large numbers of top wealth holders who are typically thought to be white natives may well be immigrants from European countries and Canada. Specifically, we found that approximately 3% of the top wealth owners who are classified as white and who are typically assumed to be native-born are more likely to be European or Canadian immigrants. Although 3% is a relatively small portion of households, this is a fairly large number of households and individuals who have considerable resources and corresponding influence.”
In January, U.S. President Donald Trump said the “extreme vetting” of Muslim immigrants he desires could be extended to those entering the U.S. from Europe. “That could happen. But we will see,” he told CNN.
The Duke study, however, warns that the immigrant wealth holders may hold not just economic clout, but political muscle as well.
“Although the percentage of top wealth holders who are immigrants is relatively small, these percentages represent large numbers of households with considerable resources and corresponding social and political influence,” reads the study. “Evidence that the propensity to allocate wealth to real and financial assets varies across immigrant groups suggests that wealth ownership is more global than previous research suggests and that immigrant groups are likely to become more prevalent in top wealth positions in the U.S. As the representation of immigrants in top wealth positions grows, their economic, social, and political influence is likely to increase as well.”
A 2010 report found that there were 2.8-million Canadians living abroad, and that more than a million of them were in the United States.
One interesting finding of the Duke study concerns the U.S.’s southern neighbour, some of whom Trump has characterized a “rapists” and “criminals“. The study found compelling evidence that Mexican immigration is a net positive for the United States.
“Our findings regarding Mexican immigrants are inconsistent with research that argues that Mexican immigrants are the textbook example of a downwardly mobile immigrant group as the result of low human capital and negative public reception, but our findings support a growing body of evidence that suggests that Mexican immigrants are often upwardly mobility,” report the authors. “Mexican geographic proximity to the U.S. eases immigration and reduces selection, making Mexican immigrants among the most disadvantaged immigrant groups, yet like nearly all immigrants, Mexican immigrants tend to be more highly educated, more occupationally motivated, and to have more entrepreneurial inclinations than others from their home country.”