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Immigrants and the economy in:


Unlike the vast majority of states across the country that have attracted immigrants in the past several years, Alabama has seen a significant decline in its foreign-born population. Since 2010, the foreign-born population of the state has fallen by more than 10 percent, or about 20,000 people. Despite this, Alabama is still home to many immigrants who are workers, entrepreneurs, and taxpayers. These new Americans serve as everything from surgeons to metalworkers, making them valuable contributors to the state’s economy.

  • Immigrant Residents

  • Immigrant Share of Population

  • Immigrant Taxes Paid (2014)

  • Immigrant Spending Power (2014)

  • Immigrant Entrepreneurs

  • Employees at Immigrant-Owned Firms



In the United States, immigrants are more likely to be working-age than their U.S.-born counterparts. This allows them to contribute to the U.S. economy and to entitlement programs as they work and pay taxes. As Alabama's slow population growth may potentially deprive businesses of customers and employers of a workforce they can depend on as more baby boomers retire, immigrants are likely to help address some of these demographic challenges.

Age Group Foreign-Born Population Share Native-Born Population Share
0-24 17.3% 33.3%
25-64 71.9% 51.1%
65+ 10.7% 15.6%


In 2010, roughly one in 10 American workers with jobs at private firms were employed at immigrant-founded companies. Such businesses also generated more than $775 billion in annual business revenue that year. In Alabama, like the country as a whole, immigrants are currently punching above their weight class as entrepreneurs.

People employed by immigrant-owned firms 37,125
Immigrant entrepreneurs 9,906
Business income of immigrant-owned firms $127.8M
Fortune 500 companies in Alabama founded by immigrants or their children 100.0%

Taxes & Spending Power

Nationally, immigrants earned $1.3 trillion in 2014 and contributed more than $104 billion in state and local taxes, as well as almost $224 billion in federal taxes. This left them with nearly $927 billion in spending power. Immigrants in Alabama play an important role contributing to the state’s economy, both as consumers and taxpayers.

Immigrant Household Income $3.6B
Taxes Paid $972.3M
State & Local Taxes $252.6M
Federal Taxes $719.7M
Total Spending Power $2.7B


Nationally, immigrants are 17.2 percent more likely to hold an advanced degree than the native-born. They are also more likely to have less than a high school education. Uniquely, this allows them to fill critical shortages at both ends of the skill spectrum, from high-tech fields to agriculture, hospitality, and service industries. This holds true in Alabama, where immigrants play a particularly large role as surgeons, construction workers, and teachers, as well as in the animal processing industry.

Workforce Education Foreign-Born Population Native-Born Population
Less Than High School 31.5% 14.7%
High School & Some College 39.7% 62.5%
Bachelor's Degree 16.7% 14.5%
Graduate Degree 12.1% 8.4%
Top Industries with Highest Share of Foreign-Born Workers
Meatpacking and processing  16.2%
Services to buildings and dwellings  10.1%
Crop production  8.7%
Construction 8.1%
Colleges, universities, and professional schools, including junior colleges 7.9%
Top Occupations with Highest Share of Foreign-Born Workers
Butchers and other meat, poultry, and fish processing workers 20.2%
Physicians and Surgeons 18.2%
Postsecondary teachers 16.2%
Construction laborers 13.7%
Food service managers 13.0%

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math

Between 2014 and 2024, science, technology, engineering, and math—or “STEM”—fields are projected to play a key role in U.S. economic growth, adding almost 800,000 new jobs and growing 37.0 percent faster than the U.S. economy as a whole. Immigrants are already playing a huge part ensuring that Alabama remains a leading innovator in industries like automobile manufacturing and industrial chemicals.

STEM workers who are immigrants 7.0%
STEM Master's students who are foreign nationals 16.4%
STEM PhD students who are foreign nationals 41.8%


In the coming years, the American healthcare industry is projected to see rapid growth—adding more new positions from 2014 to 2024 than any other industry in our economy. In Alabama, a state where more than one out of every seven residents is currently elderly, finding enough healthcare workers remains a challenge—and one that will likely worsen in the future. Immigrants, however, are already helping fill gaps in the healthcare workforce.

Open healthcare jobs to unemployed healthcare workers 6:1
Doctors who were educated abroad 18.5%
Psychiatrists who were educated abroad 32.4%
Nurses who are foreign-born 2.4%
Health aides who are foreign-born 2.2%


Immigrant families have long played an important role helping to build housing wealth in the United States. In recent decades, the more than 40 million immigrants collectively in the country increased U.S. housing wealth by $3.7 trillion. Much of this was possible because immigrants moved into neighborhoods once in decline, helping to revitalize communities and make them more attractive to U.S.-born residents. In Alabama, immigrants are actively strengthening the state’s housing market.

Immigrant homeowners 28,564
Share of recent homebuyers who were foreign-born 2.9%
Housing wealth held by immigrant households $5.6B
Amount paid by immigrant-led households in rent $23.3M

International Students

International students in the United States contributed more than $30.5 billion to the U.S. economy in the 2014-2015 school year and supported more than 370,000 jobs through their tuition payments and day-to-day spending. Research has found that increases in the number of international students at American universities boost innovation and patent creation. International students represent a small portion of all students in Alabama, but they make a big impact.

Students at Alabama colleges and universities who are international students 2.8%
Economic contribution of international students $196.1M
Jobs supported by international students 2,200

Voting Power

Nationwide, the power of immigrant voters is likely to continue to be a large factor in upcoming elections. Given their modest numbers, immigrants may not sway presidential elections in Alabama, where Mitt Romney won by roughly 460,000 votes in 2012, but their votes may make a difference in closer statewide contests and primaries in the near future.

Immigrants eligible to vote 48,812
Immigrants registered to vote 20,707
Immigrants eligible to vote in 2020 53,233
2012 presidential election margin of victory 460,229

Undocumented Immigrants

The United States is currently home to an estimated 11.4 million undocumented immigrants, the vast majority of whom have lived in the country for more than five years. The presence of so many undocumented immigrants for such a long time presents many legal and political challenges. But while politicians continue to debate what to do about illegal immigration without any resolution, millions of undocumented immigrants are actively working across the country, and collectively, these immigrants have a large impact on the U.S. economy. This is true in Alabama, where undocumented immigrants contribute tens of millions of dollars in taxes each year.

Undocumented immigrants 64,214
Share of undocumented immigrants, working age 83.7%
Undocumented entrepreneurs 4,075
Undocumented Household Income $826.3M
Taxes Paid $92.5M
State & Local Taxes $35.8M
Federal Taxes $56.7M
Total Spending Power $733.8M

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