Immigrants and the economy in:


Almost 225,000 immigrants currently live in Missouri. St. Louis, one of Missouri’s largest cities, recently launched the St. Louis Mosaic Project, which focuses on trying to make the city the fastest-growing metropolitan area for immigrants by 2020. Missouri cities have also taken steps to try to attract immigrant entrepreneurs and the many jobs that they bring. Given that such efforts have already proved successful in slowing population decline and strengthening the tax base in several other midwestern cities, the proactive approach of Missouri’s civic leaders is likely to lead to real economic gains in the future.

  • 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 Missouri, 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 18.6% 33.3%
25-64 70.0% 51.2%
65+ 11.4% 15.5%


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 Missouri, like the country as a whole, immigrants are currently punching above their weight class as entrepreneurs. Foreign-born workers currently make up 5.8 percent of all entrepreneurs in the state, despite accounting for 3.7 percent of Missouri’s population.

People employed by immigrant-owned firms 58,916
Immigrant entrepreneurs 14,101
Business income of immigrant-owned firms $258.2M
Fortune 500 companies in Missouri founded by immigrants or their children 30.0%

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

Immigrant Household Income $6.7B
Taxes Paid $1.9B
State & Local Taxes $517.8M
Federal Taxes $1.3B
Total Spending Power $4.8B


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 Missouri, where immigrants play a particularly large role as doctors, postsecondary teachers, and software developers.

Workforce Education Foreign-Born Population Native-Born Population
Less Than High School 22.2% 10.7%
High School & Some College 38.1% 62.3%
Bachelor's Degree 19.4% 17.0%
Graduate Degree 20.3% 10.0%
Top Industries with Highest Share of Foreign-Born Workers
Meatpacking and processing  21.2%
Private households  13.6%
Colleges, universities, and professional schools, including junior colleges 12.5%
Traveler accommodation  10.7%
Computer systems design and related services  8.7%
Top Occupations with Highest Share of Foreign-Born Workers
Physicians and Surgeons 19.5%
Postsecondary teachers 16.5%
Software developers, applications and systems software 15.0%
Computer occupations, all other 12.6%
Food preparation workers 11.7%

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 Missouri remains a leading innovator in industries like food science and software development.

STEM workers who are immigrants 8.7%
STEM Master’s students who are foreign nationals 25.5%
STEM PhD students who are foreign nationals 39.0%


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 Missouri, 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 5:1
Doctors who were educated abroad 20.9%
Psychiatrists who were educated abroad 45.1%
Nurses who are foreign-born 3.6%
Health aides who are foreign-born 3.7%


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

Immigrant homeowners 48,316
Share of recent homebuyers who were foreign-born 3.3%
Housing wealth held by immigrant households $11.0B
Amount paid by immigrant-led households in rent $35.6M

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 Missouri, but they make a big impact.

Students at Missouri colleges and universities who are international 4.9%
Economic contribution of international students $554.7M
Jobs supported by international students 6,493

Voting Power

In 2014, Missouri was home to almost 97,000 foreign-born residents who were eligible to vote, including an estimated 60,000 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 259,000 votes in 2012. Still, it can make a difference in closer statewide contests and primaries.

Immigrants eligible to vote 96,567
Immigrants registered to vote 60,264
Immigrants eligible to vote in 2020 114,553
2012 presidential election margin of victory 258,644

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

Undocumented immigrants 54,329
Share of undocumented immigrants, working age 78.8%
Undocumented entrepreneurs 3,462
Undocumented Household Income $625.2M
Taxes Paid $73.0M
State & Local Taxes $26.6M
Federal Taxes $46.4M
Total Spending Power $552.1M

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