Data Briefs

Immigration in America, explained through data visualization

Map the Impact:
State Updates

Date:  January 30, 2020

The U.S. population is growing at its slowest rate in a century. This is a troubling trend as 10,000 Baby Boomers age into retirement each day and birthrates remain at historic lows. For many states, this means that immigrants are playing an increasingly important role in sustaining and driving growth. In this data interactive, we compare new 2018 data from the American Community Survey to last year’s numbers to showcase immigrants’ increasing contributions to each state and the country as a whole.

By hovering over a state, a tooltip will provide detailed information for that state. By clicking on a state, you will be directed to Map the Impact, our comprehensive data tool, to learn more about immigrants in that state.

The growth of the immigrant population is slowing.

Between 2017 and 2018, the country gained more than 354,000 immigrants, less than half of the increase from the previous year. Despite this slowdown, the immigrant population was still expanding faster than the U.S. population by 0.8 percent. All in all, about one-fourth of total population growth in the United States was due to immigrants from 2017 to 2018.

More than half of all states experienced an increase in their immigrant population between 2017 and 2018. For four states, the increase in the immigrant population was enough to reverse population loss completely (Iowa, Massachusetts, Mississippi, and Pennsylvania), and in five others, immigration helped offset or slow population loss (Alaska, Hawaii, Kansas, Louisiana, and Rhode Island).

Worryingly, the foreign-born population shrank in 22 states. These included traditional immigrant destinations like New York, which experienced a decrease of 1.5 percent in its immigrant population. This hints at a change in international and domestic migration patterns among immigrants in the United States.

This all matters because losing immigrants means losing billions of dollars in tax revenues.

In 2018 alone, immigrants contributed almost $459 billion in taxes nationwide, supporting public services, such as schools, hospitals, and welfare programs. As part of this, immigrants paid $150 billion in state and local taxes, providing additional valuable tax revenues for states struggling with Medicaid expenses, underfunded pension costs, and needed funds for public education to avoid tuition hikes for American students.

In the long term, 10 U.S. states face fiscal shortfalls, including New Jersey, which had the largest fiscal deficit. The state collected only enough revenue—mostly from taxes and federal grants—to cover 91.3 percent of its expenses. Already in the Garden State, immigrants play a significant role as taxpayers to support government spending: Foreign-born households paid $19.7 billion in federal taxes and $9.5 billion in state and local taxes in 2018 alone. Given the state’s needs, any decrease in their numbers would likely widen the state’s budget shortfall.

The growth of college-educated immigrants is outpacing their U.S.-born counterparts.

Between 2017 and 2018, the number of college-educated immigrants increased by more than 473,000 people, or 3.8 percent, higher than the growth rate of 2.7 percent for their U.S.-born counterparts. These immigrants are helping to fill the urgent and growing need for high-skilled workers, as already nine out of 10 new jobs in the United States are going to workers with college degrees.

As states compete to attract more high-skilled talent, 32 states and Washington D.C. have gained more college-educated immigrants. This is particularly important for states hoping to keep companies that are looking for such talent in the local labor pool. From 2017 to 2018, Mississippi had the fastest growth in college-educated immigrants, seeing a 32.0 percent increase, followed by South Carolina and Oklahoma, with 17.8 percent and 16.4 percent increases in their college-educated immigrant populations, respectively.

Meanwhile, 16 states saw a decrease in their number of college-educated immigrants, with Maine and North Dakota both experiencing a 20 percent drop from 2017 to 2018. This could have serious ramifications for states: If companies fail to fill job openings that require certain skills, the growth potential of these companies and the economic outlook of local economies could be threatened.

Immigrants play an outsize role in starting new businesses.

Between 2017 and 2018, immigrants made up 47.2 percent of new entrepreneurs in the United States. These newcomers founded businesses ranging from cutting edge computer companies to Main Street mom-and-pop shops serving the everyday needs of their communities. In 2018, 11.9 percent of immigrants—or more than 3.2 million—were entrepreneurs, compared with 9.1 percent of the U.S.-born.

In 2018, immigrants in 12 states had an entrepreneurship rate above the national average of 11.9 percent, led by Louisiana, where more than one in six immigrants worked for their own businesses, as well as Mississippi, Florida, and South Carolina, where immigrants’ entrepreneurship rates stood at about 15 percent.

Immigrants also have growing electoral power at the ballot box.

Between 2017 and 2018, the number of immigrants eligible to vote rose by more than 700,000 people to a total of 21.4 million nationwide. These eligible immigrant voters made up 9.5 percent of the U.S. electorate in 2018.

In three battleground states—Florida, Michigan, and New Hampshire—the increase in eligible immigrant voters from 2017 to 2018 was larger than the margin of victory in the 2016 presidential election, making them an increasingly important force in these states’ electoral contests.

The latest data provides new insight on how American society and the U.S. economy are evolving. With shifting demands reshaped by globalization and ever more advanced technologies, at both at the national and state level the American economy requires a range of skills, workers, and consumers to drive innovation, production, and growth. As this year’s data continues to show, immigrants in the United States are doing their part to make America a more dynamic, more competitive country. And as immigrants become new Americans, the increase in foreign-born citizen voters also means that they will be an important voice in deciding America’s future at the ballot box.

About Us

New American Economy is a bipartisan research and advocacy organization fighting for smart federal, state, and local immigration policies that help grow our economy and create jobs for all Americans. More…