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Immigrants and the economy in:

District of Columbia
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In recent years, the District has been particularly notable for how its foreign-born population has grown. Between 2010 and 2014, the city’s foreign-born population grew by 16.2 percent—a rate almost triple the percent increase in the number of immigrants living in the United States more broadly. The more than 90,000 new Americans living in the district today serve as everything from high school teachers to economists, making them an important part of the economic success of the city.

  • Immigrant Residents

  • Immigrant Share of Population

  • Immigrant Taxes Paid (2014)

  • Immigrant Spending Power (2014)

  • Immigrant Entrepreneurs

  • Immigrant Company Employees (Combined with Delaware)



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 Washington, D.C., 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
0-24 17.1% 31.5%
25-64 73.2% 57.0%
65+ 9.7% 11.5%


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 the District of Columbia, like the country as a whole, immigrants are currently punching above their weight class as entrepreneurs. Foreign-born workers currently make up 19.7 percent of all entrepreneurs in the city, despite being just 14.1 percent of the DC’s population.

People employed by immigrant-owned firms (combined with Delaware) 41,672
Immigrant entrepreneurs 4,803
Business income of immigrant-owned firms $121.9M

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 Washington, D.C. play an important role contributing to the state’s economy both as consumers and taxpayers.

Immigrant Household Income $4.0B
Taxes Paid $1.0B
State & Local Taxes $336.9M
Federal Taxes $712.5M
Total Spending Power $2.9B


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 Washington, D.C., immigrants play a particularly large role as janitors, financial managers, and economists.

Workforce Education Foreign-Born Population Native-Born Population
Less Than High School 22.6% 7.4%
High School & Some College 27.4% 36.9%
Bachelor's Degree 19.8% 25.5%
Graduate Degree 30.2% 30.3%
Top Industries with Highest Share of Foreign-Born Workers
Services to buildings and dwellings  65.0%
Traveler accommodation  50.8%
Construction  41.5%
Non-depository credit and related activities  31.9%
Restaurants and other food services  29.9%
Top Occupations with Highest Share of Foreign-Born Workers
Maids and Housekeeping Cleaners 68.5%
Janitors and Building Cleaners 41.9%
Cooks 41.4%
Construction Laborers 38.5%
Economists 37.1%

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 Washington, D.C. remains a leading innovator in industries like advanced biotechnology and technical consulting.

STEM workers who are immigrants 16.9%
STEM Master’s students who are foreign nationals 23.2%
STEM PhD students who are foreign nationals 23.1%


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 Washington, D.C. where more than one out of every 9 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 5:1
Doctors who were educated abroad 22.0%
Psychiatrists who were educated abroad 26.8%
Nurses who are foreign-born 22.4%
Health aides who are foreign-born 20.3%


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 Washington, D.C., immigrants are actively strengthening the state’s housing market.

Immigrant homeowners 13,300
Share of recent homebuyers who were foreign-born 13.6%
Housing wealth held by immigrant households $10.2B
Amount paid by immigrant-led households in rent $39.9M

International Students

International students in the United States also 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 also found that increases in the number of international students at American universities boosts innovation and patent creation. International students represent a small portion of all students in Washington, D.C., but they make a big impact.

Students at District of Columbia colleges and universities who are international 10.8%
Economic contribution of international students $378.8M
Jobs supported by international students 4,361

Voting Power

Nationwide, the power of immigrant voters is likely to continue to be a large factor in upcoming elections. While immigrants may not sway the outcomes of presidential elections in this reliably Democratic area—Barack Obama won here by more than 245,000 votes—they may have an impact on local and primary elections.

Immigrants eligible to vote 32,025
Immigrants registered to vote 22,358
Immigrants eligible to vote in 2020 38,686
2012 presidential election margin of victory 245,689

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 Washington, D.C., where undocumented immigrants contribute tens of millions of dollars in taxes each year.

Undocumented immigrants 20,630
Share of undocumented immigrants, working age 86.6%
Undocumented entrepreneurs 1,089
Undocumented Household Income $642.7M
Taxes Paid $81.0M
State & Local Taxes $28.2M
Federal Taxes $52.8M
Total Spending Power $561.7M

The Economic Impact of Refugees

Despite leaving extreme and dangerous situations in their home countries, refugees are often able to rebound and prosper as they become more integrated into American society. Nationwide, we find that refugees hold billions of dollars in spending power and pay more than $20 billion in tax contributions to federal, state, and local governments each year. At the state level, they contribute millions of added dollars to local economies, making them an important driver of growth and prosperity for communities around the country.

Key Stats
Number of Likely Refugees 6,048
State's Share of all Likely Refugees 0.3%
Share of Overall State Population, Refugee 0.9%
Taxes & Spending Power
Refugee Household Income $232.3M
Taxes Paid $64.9M
State & Local Taxes $19.8M
Federal Taxes $45.2M
Refugee Spending Power $167.4M

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