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Immigrants and the economy in:

Rhode Island
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Though it is our nation’s smallest state, Rhode Island is home to almost 140,000 immigrants. The state’s immigrants are mostly of working age and play a valuable role in both the manufacturing and software industries. They are also bolstering the housing market by buying the wave of homes coming on the market as baby boomers retire; all of these positive contributions are critical to the success of Rhode Island’s economy.

  • Immigrant Residents

  • Immigrant Share of Population

  • Immigrant Taxes Paid (2014)

  • Immigrant Spending Power (2014)

  • Immigrant Entrepreneurs

  • Employees at Immigrant-Owned Firms (Combined with Vermont)



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 Rhode Island, 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 13.5% 33.9%
25-64 69.6% 50.4%
65+ 16.9% 15.7%


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. Rhode Island is currently home to more than 5,100 foreign-born entrepreneurs. Such business owners are creating real and meaningful economic opportunities to local, U.S.-born workers.

People employed by immigrant-owned firms (combined with Vermont) 27,605
Immigrant entrepreneurs 5,113
Business income of immigrant-owned firms $36.5M

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 Rhode Island play an important role contributing to the state’s economy, both as consumers and taxpayers.

Immigrant Household Income $3.5B
Taxes Paid $886.1M
State & Local Taxes $336.3M
Federal Taxes $549.9M
Total Spending Power $2.6B


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 Rhode Island, immigrants play a particularly large role as assemblers, software developers, and chefs.

Workforce Education Foreign-Born Population Native-Born Population
Less Than High School 32.8% 11.0%
High School & Some College 45.7% 57.2%
Bachelor's Degree 12.3% 19.1%
Graduate Degree 9.3% 12.8%
Top Industries with Highest Share of Foreign-Born Workers
Services to buildings and dwellings  59.0%
Landscaping services  44.8%
Miscellaneous manufacturing n.e.c.  39.3%
Not specified industries  38.7%
Private households  38.4%
Top Occupations with Highest Share of Foreign-Born Workers
Miscellaneous Assemblers and Fabricators 53.1%
Software Developers Applications and Systems Software 50.2%
Chefs and Head Cooks 49.2%
Miscellaneous metal workers and plastic workers including milling and planing machine setters and multiple machine tool setters and lay-out workers 49.1%
Other production workers including semiconductor processors and cooling and freezing equipment operators 42.2%

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 Rhode Island remains a leading innovator in industries like IT services and software development.

STEM workers who are immigrants 16.1%
STEM Master’s students who are foreign nationals 28.2%
STEM PhD students who are foreign nationals 32.3%


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 Rhode Island, 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 10:1
Doctors who were educated abroad 23.7%
Psychiatrists who were educated abroad 23.1%
Nurses who are foreign-born 9.3%
Health aides who are foreign-born 29.1%


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

Immigrant homeowners 27,504
Share of recent homebuyers who were foreign-born 11.7%
Housing wealth held by immigrant households $7.1B
Amount paid by immigrant-led households in rent $29.3M

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 boost innovation and patent creation. International students represent a small portion of all students in Rhode Island, but they make a big impact.

Students at Rhode Island colleges and universities who are international 6.1%
Economic contribution of international students $203.0M
Jobs supported by international students 2,198

Voting Power

In 2014, Rhode Island was home to almost 67,000 foreign-born residents who were eligible to vote, including an estimated 42,000 foreign-born residents who had formally registered. Those numbers are unlikely to sway a presidential election in this relatively safe Democratic state, where President Barack Obama won by roughly 122,000 votes in 2012. Still, it can make a difference in closer statewide contests and primaries.

Immigrants eligible to vote 66,987
Immigrants registered to vote 42,128
Immigrants eligible to vote in 2020 74,798
2012 presidential election margin of victory 122,473

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 Rhode Island, where undocumented immigrants contribute tens of millions of dollars in taxes each year.

Undocumented immigrants 26,666
Share of undocumented immigrants, working age 81.5%
Undocumented entrepreneurs 903
Undocumented Household Income $365.2M
Taxes Paid $43.7M
State & Local Taxes $17.9M
Federal Taxes $25.8M
Total Spending Power $321.5M

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