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Immigrants and the economy in:


After decades when states such as California, Florida, and New York attracted the majority of immigrants to the country, Arizona has recently emerged as a major destination for new Americans. Today, Arizona boasts the 11th-largest immigrant population in the United States, with over 920,000 foreign-born residents. New Americans in Arizona serve as everything from entrepreneurs to farm laborers, making them critical contributors to the state’s economic success overall.

  • 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 Arizona, 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 14.8% 37.1%
25-64 70.5% 46.8%
65+ 14.7% 16.1%


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 Arizona, like the country as a whole, immigrants are currently punching above their weight class as entrepreneurs. Foreign-born workers currently make up 22.0 percent of all entrepreneurs in the state, despite accounting for 13.7 percent of Arizona’s population.

People employed by immigrant-owned firms 113,760
Immigrant entrepreneurs 60,132
Business income of immigrant-owned firms $1.3B
Fortune 500 companies in Arizona founded by immigrants or their children 40.0%

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

Immigrant Household Income $21.4B
Taxes Paid $5.4B
State & Local Taxes $1.7B
Federal Taxes $3.7B
Total Spending Power $16.0B


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 Arizona, immigrants play a particularly large role as crop production workers, cleaners, and physicians.

Workforce Education Foreign-Born Population Native-Born Population
Less Than High School 38.4% 8.6%
High School & Some College 41.6% 62.4%
Bachelor's Degree 11.5% 18.6%
Graduate Degree 8.5% 10.4%
Top Industries with Highest Share of Foreign-Born Workers
Crop production  63.1%
Landscaping services  49.1%
Services to buildings and dwellings  37.5%
Private households  33.3%
Groceries and related products  29.6%
Top Occupations with Highest Share of Foreign-Born Workers
Miscellaneous agricultural workers, including animal breeders 73.9%
Maids and Housekeeping cleaners 55.0%
Grounds maintenance workers 50.2%
Painters, construction and maintenance 39.7%
Cleaners of vehicles and equipment 39.6%

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 Arizona remains a leading innovator in industries like advanced manufacturing and aerospace.

STEM workers who are immigrants 17.3%
STEM Master’s students who are foreign nationals 25.8%
STEM PhD students who are foreign nationals 36.8%


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 Arizona, a state where more than 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 12:1
Doctors who were educated abroad 27.3%
Psychiatrists who were educated abroad 35.3%
Nurses who are foreign-born 13.5%
Health aides who are foreign-born 16.6%


One sector of the economy of particular importance to Arizona is agriculture. In 2014, the agriculture industry contributed nearly $2.5 billion to Arizona’s GDP. It also directly provided jobs to almost 30,000 Arizonans. Within that massive industry, fresh fruits and vegetables played a prominent role. In 2014, Arizona farms grew almost $897 million worth of fresh fruits, vegetables, and tree nuts. Immigrants are still a huge part of the state’s overall agricultural workforce. In 2014, almost 60 percent of agricultural workers in the state were born abroad.

Share of fresh fruit and vegetable farms 18.6%
Share of misc. agriculture workers, foreign-born 80.4%
Amount in sales that lettuce alone contributed to Arizona's economy $377.2M


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

Immigrant homeowners 212,392
Share of recent homebuyers who were foreign-born 16.1%
Housing wealth held by immigrant households $41.4B
Amount paid by immigrant-led households in rent $136.4M

International Students

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 Arizona, but they make a big impact.

Students at Arizona colleges and universities who are international 4.1%
Economic contribution of international students $479.1M
Jobs supported by international students 6,726

Voting Power

In 2014, Arizona was home to roughly 352,000 foreign-born residents who were eligible to vote, including an estimated 209,000 foreign-born residents who had formally registered. Although few would call Arizona a swing state today, the sheer size of the state’s immigrant voting bloc means it has the potential to powerfully impact which way the state votes in national and state elections. In 2012, for instance, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney won Arizona by almost 208,000 votes—a smaller vote tally than the current number of eligible immigrant voters in the state.

Immigrants eligible to vote 351,859
Immigrants registered to vote 208,882
Immigrants eligible to vote in 2020 384,994
2012 presidential election margin of victory 208,422

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 Arizona, where undocumented immigrants contribute hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes each year.

Undocumented immigrants 284,378
Share of undocumented immigrants, working age 79.7%
Undocumented entrepreneurs 24,656
Undocumented Household Income $3.5B
Taxes Paid $388.9M
State & Local Taxes $162.2M
Federal Taxes $226.6M
Total Spending Power $3.1B

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 40,123
State's Share of Likely Refugees 1.7%
Share of Overall Population, Refugee 0.6%
Taxes & Spending Power
Refugee Household Income $1.0B
Taxes Paid $251.4M
State & Local Taxes $83.1M
Federal Taxes $168.3M
Refugee Spending Power $780.9M

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