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Immigrants and the economy in:

South Carolina

South Carolina is home to more than 225,000 immigrants. They are giving back to the state’s economy by paying taxes and creating jobs. In fact, the only Fortune 500 company in South Carolina, which generates $12.5 billion in revenues and employs over 13,000 people globally, was founded by a British immigrant. Immigrants also play key roles in the state’s agriculture and hospitality industries.

  • 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. This is equally true in South Carolina, 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 14.6% 33.4%
25-64 73.7% 50.7%
65+ 11.6% 15.9%


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 South Carolina, like the country as a whole, immigrants are currently punching above their weight class as entrepreneurs. Foreign-born workers currently make up 9 percent of all entrepreneurs in the state, despite accounting for 4.7 percent of South Carolina’s population.

People employed by immigrant-owned firms 47,098
Immigrant entrepreneurs 16,229
Business income of immigrant-owned firms $207.3M
Fortune 500 companies in South Carolina 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 South Carolina play an important role contributing to the state’s economy, both as consumers and taxpayers.

Immigrant Household Income $5.4B
Taxes Paid $1.3B
State & Local Taxes $379.2M
Federal Taxes $958.0M
Total Spending Power $4.1B


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 South Carolina, where immigrants play a particularly large role as agricultural workers, painters, and software developers.

Workforce Education Foreign-Born Population Native-Born Population
Less Than High School 30.7% 12.9%
High School & Some College 42.5% 60.9%
Bachelor's Degree 13.7% 16.7%
Graduate Degree 13.1% 9.5%
Top Industries with Highest Share of Foreign-Born Workers
Crop production  30.4%
Private households  26.7%
Meatpacking and processing  17.4%
Services to buildings and dwellings  17.0%
Construction  15.7%
Top Occupations with Highest Share of Foreign-Born Workers
Miscellaneous agricultural workers including animal breeders 37.1%
Painters Construction and Maintenance 25.6%
Construction Laborers 24.4%
Maids and Housekeeping Cleaners 23.2%
Carpenters 22.0%

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 South Carolina remains a leading innovator in industries like precision manufacturing and aviation.

STEM workers who are immigrants 8.9%
STEM Master’s students who are foreign nationals 25.8%
STEM PhD students who are foreign nationals 47.0%


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 South Carolina, 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 6:1
Doctors who were educated abroad 14.7%
Psychiatrists who were educated abroad 19.6%
Nurses who are foreign-born 4.6%
Health aides who are foreign-born 3.2%


In 2014, the agriculture industry contributed $1.6 billion to South Carolina’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). It also directly employed almost 22,000 South Carolinians. Within this large industry, fresh fruits and vegetables play a prominent role. In 2014, farmers in South Carolina grew over $148 million worth of fresh fruits, vegetables, and tree nuts. They also sold more than $68.3 million worth of peaches, the state fruit.

Share of fresh fruit and vegetable farms 19.1%
Share of misc. agriculture workers, foreign-born 47.1%
Share of all agriculture workers, foreign-born 27.3%
Amount agriculture directly contributes to South Carolina's economy $1.6B


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

Immigrant homeowners 50,255
Share of recent homebuyers who were foreign-born 7.1%
Housing wealth held by immigrant households $9.6B
Amount paid by immigrant-led households in rent $32.7M

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 South Carolina, but they make a big impact.

Students at South Carolina colleges and universities who are international 2.0%
Economic contribution of international students $130.5M
Jobs supported by international students 1,405

Voting Power

In 2014, South Carolina was home to more than 81,000 foreign-born residents who were eligible to vote, including an estimated 47,000 foreign-born residents who had formally registered. Those numbers are unlikely to sway a presidential election in this relatively safe Republican state, where Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney won by roughly 206,000 votes in 2012. Still, it can make a difference in closer statewide contests and primaries.

Immigrants eligible to vote 81,186
Immigrants registered to vote 47,365
Immigrants eligible to vote in 2020 98,551
2012 presidential election margin of victory 205,704

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 South Carolina, where undocumented immigrants contribute tens of millions of dollars in taxes each year.

Undocumented immigrants 92,991
Share of undocumented immigrants, working age 84.0%
Undocumented entrepreneurs 6,419
Undocumented Household Income $1.2B
Taxes Paid $134.9M
State & Local Taxes $44.9M
Federal Taxes $90.0M
Total Spending Power $1.1B

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