Today, California is home to almost 10.5 million immigrants, the single largest foreign-born population in the country. The number of immigrants in the state also continues to rise: From 2010 to 2014, the foreign-born population in California grew by more than 325,000 people. By 2014, 27.0 percent of California’s population was immigrant, by far the largest share of any state in the country.
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. This is equally true in California, where immigrants are far more likely to be of working age than the U.S.-born population.
|Age Group||Foreign-Born Population Share||Native-Born Population Share|
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 California, like the country as a whole, immigrants are currently punching far above their weight class as entrepreneurs. Foreign-born residents currently make up 38.4 percent of all entrepreneurs in the state, despite accounting for 27.0 percent of California’s population.
|People employed by immigrant-owned firms||1,460,099|
|Business income of immigrant-owned firms||$20.2B|
|Fortune 500 companies in California founded by immigrants or their children||44.2%|
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 California play an important role contributing to the state’s economy, both as consumers and taxpayers.
|Immigrant Household Income||$323.3B|
|— State & Local Taxes||$26.4B|
|— Federal Taxes||$56.5B|
|Total Spending Power||$240.4B|
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. In California, immigrants play a particularly large role in crop production, software development, and clothing manufacturing.
|Workforce Education||Foreign-Born Population||Native-Born Population|
|Less Than High School||34.9%||8.1%|
|High School & Some College||38.7%||57.1%|
|Top Industries with Highest Share of Foreign-Born Workers|
|Cut and sew apparel||76.1%|
|Services to buildings and dwellings||58.7%|
|Top Occupations with Highest Share of Foreign-Born Workers|
|Sewing machine operators||90.8%|
|Miscellaneous agricultural workers, including animal breeders||77.6%|
|Maids and Housekeeping cleaners||77.6%|
|Miscellaneous personal appearance workers||63.6%|
|Packers and Packagers, hand||63.2%|
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 California remains a leading innovator in industries like computer programming and biotechnology.
|STEM workers who are immigrants||39.8%|
|STEM Master’s students who are foreign nationals||26.5%|
|STEM PhD students who are foreign nationals||27.5%|
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 California, a state where more than one out of every 8 people is currently elderly, finding enough healthcare workers remains a challenge—and one that will likely worsen in the future.
|Open healthcare jobs to unemployed healthcare workers||6:1|
|Doctors who were educated abroad||25.1%|
|Psychiatrists who were educated abroad||28.5%|
|Nurses who are foreign-born||37.3%|
|Health aides who are foreign-born||43.4%|
In 2014, the agriculture industry contributed $37.7B billion to California’s gross domestic product—the largest amount for any state in the country. Within that massive industry, fresh fruits and vegetables played a prominent role—California also exported more fresh fruits than any other state in the country. Fresh fruits and vegetables, unlike commodity crops such as corn, soybeans, and wheat, are almost always harvested by hand, making the state’s agriculture industry inherently reliant on immigrants. In 2014, almost seven out of every 10 agriculture workers in the state were born abroad.
|Share of fresh fruit and vegetable farms||52.2%|
|Share of misc. agriculture workers, foreign-born||82.2%|
|Share of all agriculture workers, foreign-born||69.2%|
|Amount agriculture directly contributes to California's economy||$37.7B|
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 California, immigrants are actively strengthening the state’s housing market.
|Share of recent homebuyers who were foreign-born||31.7%|
|Housing wealth held by immigrant households||$1,022.5B|
|Amount paid by immigrant-led households in rent||$2.8B|
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 California, but they make a big impact.
|Students at California colleges and universities who are international||4.8%|
|Economic contribution of international students||$4.0B|
|Jobs supported by international students||45,402|
Nationwide, the power of immigrant voters is likely to continue to be a large factor in upcoming elections. The sheer size of the immigrant voting bloc here means it has a powerful impact on the way California votes in both national and state elections. In 2012, for instance, Barack Obama won California by roughly 3 million votes—a far smaller margin than the number of eligible foreign-born voters in the state.
|Immigrants eligible to vote||4,989,938|
|Immigrants registered to vote||2,894,546|
|Immigrants eligible to vote in 2020||5,349,564|
|2012 presidential election margin of victory||3,014,327|
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 California, where undocumented immigrants contribute billions of dollars in taxes each year.
|Share of undocumented immigrants, working age||86.0%|
|Undocumented Household Income||$38.7B|
|— State & Local Taxes||$1.6B|
|— Federal Taxes||$2.7B|
|Total Spending Power||$34.3B|
|Share these facts|
|Hey @SenFeinstein, you have 784,584 immigrant entrepreneurs creating jobs in your state. #ReasonForReform|
|Hey @SenFeinstein, did you know that 74.2% of immigrants in your state are of working age? #ReasonForReform|
|Hey @KamalaHarris, did you know there are 4,989,938 eligible immigrant voters in your state? #ReasonForReform|
|Hey @KamalaHarris, did you know immigrants in your state wield $240.4B in spending power? #ReasonForReform|
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New American Economy brings together more than 500 mayors and business leaders who support immigration reforms that will help create jobs for Americans today. More…
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