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Today, Hawaii is home to almost a quarter of a million immigrants. In only five other states is a higher share of the population foreign-born. Immigrants in Hawaii play an important role contributing to the state as both taxpayers and consumers. By spending the money they earn at businesses such as hair salons, grocery stores, and coffee shops, immigrants also support small business owners and job creation in the communities where they live.

  • 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 Hawaii, 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 10.9% 35.5%
25-64 67.1% 49.5%
65+ 22.0% 15.0%


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 Hawaii, like the country as a whole, immigrants are currently punching above their weight class as entrepreneurs. Foreign-born workers currently make up 20.2 percent of all entrepreneurs in the state, despite being just 17.0 percent of Hawaii’s population.

People employed by immigrant-owned firms 38,048
Immigrant entrepreneurs 13,207
Business income of immigrant-owned firms $366.6M

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

Immigrant Household Income $6.9B
Taxes Paid $1.8B
State & Local Taxes $668.5M
Federal Taxes $1.2B
Total Spending Power $5.0B


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 Hawaii, immigrants play a particularly large role as nursing aides, taxi drivers, and agricultural managers.

Workforce Education Foreign-Born Population Native-Born Population
Less Than High School 20.3% 5.3%
High School & Some College 55.8% 60.9%
Bachelor's Degree 17.2% 21.9%
Graduate Degree 6.7% 11.9%
Top Industries with Highest Share of Foreign-Born Workers
Traveler accommodation  46.2%
Travel arrangements and reservation services  45.7%
Landscaping services  37.3%
Crop production  36.5%
Services to buildings and dwellings  32.7%
Top Occupations with Highest Share of Foreign-Born Workers
Laundry and dry-cleaning workers 71.6%
Maids and Housekeeping cleaners 63.1%
Nursing, Psychiatric, and Home health aides 51.9%
Taxi drivers and Chauffeurs 50.0%
Farmers, Ranchers, and other agricultural managers 46.8%

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 Hawaii remains a leading innovator in industries like defense and advanced manufacturing.

STEM workers who are immigrants 12.9%
STEM Master’s students who are foreign nationals 13.0%
STEM PhD students who are foreign nationals 35.3%


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 Hawaii, 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 10:1
Doctors who were educated abroad 15.3%
Psychiatrists who were educated abroad 21.3%
Nurses who are foreign-born 21.7%
Health aides who are foreign-born 43.8%


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

Immigrant homeowners 46,197
Share of recent homebuyers who were foreign-born 20.5%
Housing wealth held by immigrant households $27.0B
Amount paid by immigrant-led households in rent $49.8M

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 Hawaii, but they make a big impact.

Students at Hawaii colleges and universities who are international 6.3%
Economic contribution of international students $110.9M
Jobs supported by international students 1,025

Voting Power

Nationwide, the power of immigrant voters is likely to continue to be a large factor in upcoming elections. Although few would call Hawaii a swing state, the sheer size of the immigrant voting bloc here means it has a meaningful impact on the way the state votes in both national and state elections.

Immigrants eligible to vote 133,827
Immigrants registered to vote 64,382
Immigrants eligible to vote in 2020 137,831
2012 presidential election margin of victory 185,643

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

Undocumented immigrants 40,343
Share of undocumented immigrants, working age 80.5%
Undocumented entrepreneurs 3,299
Undocumented Household Income $652.3M
Taxes Paid $87.2M
State & Local Taxes $31.3M
Federal Taxes $55.9M
Total Spending Power $565.0M

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 7,892
State's Share of all Likely Refugees 0.3%
Share of Overall State Population, Refugee 0.6%
Taxes & Spending Power
Refugee Household Income $255.7M
Taxes Paid $70.1M
State & Local Taxes $25.2M
Federal Taxes $44.9M
Refugee Spending Power $185.6M

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