Our new research reveals the many ways immigrants are helping revive the Great Lakes region.
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Immigrants and the economy in:


Almost one million Georgia residents were born abroad, the 9th-largest immigrant population in the country. Immigrants play a particularly important role in the agriculture sector, which contributes $5 billion to the state’s gross domestic product annually, by making up 35 percent of workers in the industry. Georgia’s new Americans also play outsize roles in the workforce, serving as everything from carpenters to computer programmers.

  • 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 Georgia, 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 15.3% 37.0%
25-64 75.6% 50.3%
65+ 9.2% 12.7%


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. In Georgia, like the country as a whole, immigrants are currently punching far above their weight class as entrepreneurs. Foreign-born workers currently make up 17.7 percent of all entrepreneurs in the state, despite accounting for 9.8 percent of Georgia’s population.

People employed by immigrant-owned firms 136,924
Immigrant entrepreneurs 74,812
Business income of immigrant-owned firms $1.5B
Fortune 500 companies in Georgia founded by immigrants or their children 40.9%

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

Immigrant Household Income $26.1B
Taxes Paid $6.9B
State & Local Taxes $2.2B
Federal Taxes $4.7B
Total Spending Power $19.2B


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

Workforce Education Foreign-Born Population Native-Born Population
Less Than High School 28.8% 12.3%
High School & Some College 41.6% 58.8%
Bachelor's Degree 17.2% 18.3%
Graduate Degree 12.4% 10.7%
Top Industries with Highest Share of Foreign-Born Workers
Private households  32.9%
Meatpacking and processing  32.1%
Carpet and rug mills 32.0%
Services to buildings and dwellings  27.9%
Crop production  25.5%
Top Occupations with Highest Share of Foreign-Born Workers
Painters, construction and maintenance 48.6%
Software developers, applications and systems software 43.0%
Carpenters 41.4%
Miscellaneous agricultural workers, including animal breeders 34.9%
Maids and Housekeeping cleaners 34.1%

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 Georgia remains a leading innovator in industries like aviation and aerospace.

STEM workers who are immigrants 20.1%
STEM Master’s students who are foreign nationals 28.5%
STEM PhD students who are foreign nationals 40.2%


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 Georgia, a state where more than one out of every 8 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 22.6%
Psychiatrists who were educated abroad 29.8%
Nurses who are foreign-born 10.4%
Health aides who are foreign-born 13.5%


In 2014, the agriculture industry contributed almost $5.0 billion to Georgia’s GDP—placing the state among the top 15 in the country in terms of the size of that contribution. It also directly employed almost 44,000 Georgians. Within that massive industry, fresh fruits and vegetables played a prominent role—growers in the state produced more than $760 million worth of fresh fruits, vegetables, and tree nuts. Many of these crops, such as blueberries, need to be handpicked, making Georgia's agriculture industry heavily reliant on immigrant workers.

Share of fresh fruit and vegetable farms 28.4%
Share of misc. agriculture workers, foreign-born 48.9%
Share of all agriculture workers, foreign-born 23.6%
Amount earned from sale of Georgia blueberries in 2014 $118.8M


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

Immigrant homeowners 214,830
Share of recent homebuyers who were foreign-born 15.1%
Housing wealth held by immigrant households $43.6B
Amount paid by immigrant-led households in rent $168.9M

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 Georgia, but they make a big impact.

Students at Georgia colleges and universities who are international 4.4%
Economic contribution of international students $597.4M
Jobs supported by international students 7,809

Voting Power

In 2014, Georgia was home to almost 392,000 foreign-born eligible voters, including an estimated roughly 205,000 immigrant residents who had formally registered. Although few would call Georgia a swing state today, the sheer size of the state’s immigrant voting population means it has the potential to powerfully impact which way the state votes in national and state elections in the coming years.

Immigrants eligible to vote 391,902
Immigrants registered to vote 205,476
Immigrants eligible to vote in 2020 455,640
2012 presidential election margin of victory 304,861

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

Undocumented immigrants 376,702
Share of undocumented immigrants, working age 82.2%
Undocumented entrepreneurs 29,788
Undocumented Household Income $5.4B
Taxes Paid $632.6M
State & Local Taxes $245.0M
Federal Taxes $387.6M
Total Spending Power $4.8B

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 61,409
State's Share of all Likely Refugees 2.7%
Share of Overall State Population, Refugee 0.6%
Taxes & Spending Power
Refugee Household Income $1.6B
Taxes Paid $407.6M
State & Local Taxes $133.6M
Federal Taxes $274.1M
Refugee Spending Power $1.2B

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