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Immigrants and the economy in:


Pennsylvania today is home to more than 860,000 immigrants. Without the addition of more foreign-born, Pennsylvania’s population would have declined by more than 80,000 people between 2010 and 2016. Instead, immigrants are bolstering the state’s economy and working in a wide range of different industries – many of which are growing and important parts of the local economy – including computer systems design, pharmaceuticals and medicines, and agriculture.

  • Immigrant Residents

  • Immigrant Share of Population

  • Immigrant Taxes Paid

  • Immigrant Spending Power

  • 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. This is equally true in Pennsylvania 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
0-15 6.3% 19.2%
16-64 78.6% 63.2%
65+ 15.1% 17.6%


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 Pennsylvania, like the country as a whole, immigrants are currently punching above their weight class as entrepreneurs. Foreign-born workers currently make up one in ten entrepreneurs in the state, despite accounting for 6.8 percent of Pennsylvania’s population.

People employed by immigrant-owned firms 143,211
Immigrant entrepreneurs 51,561
Business income of immigrant-owned firms $1.2B
Fortune 500 companies in Pennsylvania founded by immigrants or their children 40.0%

Taxes & Spending Power

Nationally, immigrants earned $1.4 trillion in 2016 and contributed more than $117 billion in state and local taxes, as well as almost $262 billion in federal taxes. This left them with more than $1.0 billion in spending power. Immigrants in Pennsylvania play an important role contributing to the state’s economy both as consumers and taxpayers.

Immigrant Household Income $27.7B
Taxes Paid $7.5B
State & Local Taxes $2.3B
Federal Taxes $5.2B
Total Spending Power $20.2B


Nationally, immigrants are 9.2 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 Pennsylvania, where immigrants play a particularly large role as software developers, doctors, and packers.

Educational Attainment by Nativity, Age 25+
Workforce Education Foreign-Born Population Native-Born Population
Less Than High School 20.1% 9.2%
High School & Some College 41.4% 60.6%
Bachelor's Degree 20.1% 18.7%
Graduate Degree 18.4% 11.4%
Top Industries with Highest Share of Foreign-Born Workers
Nail salons and other personal care services 51.1%
Private households 26.2%
Animal slaughtering and processing 22.0%
Warehousing and storage 21.2%
Services to buildings and dwellings 20.0%
Top Occupations with Highest Share of Foreign-Born Workers
Packers and packagers 34.1%
Software developers, applications and systems software 31.9%
Miscellaneous agricultural workers 25.6%
Physicians and surgeons 25.3%
Packaging and filling machine operators and tenders 22.5%

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 Pennsylvania remains a leading innovator in industries like telecommunications and finance.

STEM workers who are immigrants 15.5%
STEM Master’s students who are foreign nationals 31.4%
STEM PhD students who are foreign nationals 38.0%


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 Pennsylvania, a state where nearly one out of every 6 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 7:1
Doctors who were educated abroad 23.6%
Psychiatrists who were educated abroad 33.1%
Nurses who are foreign-born 7.1%
Health aides who are foreign-born 11.6%


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 Pennsylvania, immigrants are actively strengthening the state’s housing market.

Immigrant homeowners 194,881
Share of recent homebuyers who were foreign-born 8.0%
Housing wealth held by immigrant households $51.1B
Amount paid by immigrant-led households in rent $1.7B

International Students

International students in the United States contributed more than $36.9 billion to the U.S. economy in the 2016-2017 school year and supported more than 450,000 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 boost innovation and patent creation. International students represent a small portion of all students in Pennsylvania, but they make a big impact.

Students at Pennsylvania colleges and universities who are international 6.2%
Economic contribution of international students $1.6B
Jobs supported by international students 22,858

Voting Power

In 2016, Pennsylvania was home to almost 439,000 foreign-born residents who were eligible to vote, including an estimated 236,000 foreign-born residents who had formally registered. Those numbers are particularly meaningful given the narrow margins of victory that have decided elections in this swing state in recent years. In 2016, Donald Trump won Pennsylvania by less than 45,000 votes.

Immigrants eligible to vote 439,326
Immigrants registered to vote 236,569
Immigrants eligible to vote in 2020 482,079
2016 presidential election margin of victory 44,292

Undocumented Immigrants

The United States is currently home to an estimated 11.0 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 Pennsylvania, where undocumented immigrants contribute hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes each year.

Undocumented immigrants 174,528
Share of undocumented immigrants, working age 83.8%
Undocumented entrepreneurs 10,700
Undocumented Household Income $3.5B
Taxes Paid $442.5M
State & Local Taxes $153.2M
Federal Taxes $289.2M
Total Spending Power $3.0B

The DACA-Eligible Population

Our analysis of the 1.3 million DACA-eligible individuals nationwide found that DACA-eligible people were contribution billions of dollars to the U.S. economy. But DACA, of course, gains more resonance when we look beyond the national picture. Every state in the country is currently home to hundreds—or in many cases, thousands—of DACA-eligible people. Clawing back the protections afforded to this group upsets community networks and schools, and can hurt local employers and businesses dependent upon Dreamers to serve as workers and customers.

Number of DACA Eligible Residents 15,355
Share of DACA Eligible Population in Labor Force that is Employed 87.9%
DACA-Eligible Household Income $223.6M
State & Local Taxes $20.1M
Federal Taxes $15.7M
Total Spending Power $187.8M

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 68,333
State's Share of all Likely Refugees 3.0%
Share of Overall State Population, Refugee 0.5%
Taxes & Spending Power
Refugee Household Income $2.0B
Taxes Paid $530.5M
State & Local Taxes $173.9M
Federal Taxes $356.6M
Refugee Spending Power $1.5B

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