Immigrants and the economy in:


Washington has emerged in recent decades as an increasingly popular destination for America’s immigrants, boasting the 10th-largest immigrant population. Immigrant entrepreneurs are a critical part of Washington’s economic success story, from Main Street businesses to Fortune 500 companies, they are generating high revenue and employing hundreds of thousands of people. The immigrants who are working in Washington also contribute to a wide range of different industries in the state, pay billions in taxes, and bolster the agriculture and housing markets.

  • 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 Washington, 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 15.4% 34.8%
25-64 71.6% 51.0%
65+ 13.0% 14.2%


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 Washington, firms with at least one immigrant owner provided jobs to roughly 141,000 Americans in 2007.

People employed by immigrant-owned firms 141,483
Immigrant entrepreneurs 57,780
Business income of immigrant-owned firms $1.2B
Fortune 500 companies in Washington founded by immigrants or their children 60.0%

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

Immigrant Household Income $30.9B
Taxes Paid $8.1B
State & Local Taxes $2.4B
Federal Taxes $5.7B
Total Spending Power $22.8B


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 Washington, where immigrants play a particularly large role in the warehousing and storage industry, as well as in the computer systems design industry.

Workforce Education Foreign-Born Population Native-Born Population
Less Than High School 24.6% 6.6%
High School & Some College 42.9% 60.0%
Bachelor's Degree 18.5% 21.8%
Graduate Degree 14.0% 11.6%
Top Industries with Highest Share of Foreign-Born Workers
Crop production  55.1%
Computer systems design and related services  33.8%
Traveler accommodation  32.8%
Groceries and related products  31.1%
Warehousing and storage  30.2%
Top Occupations with Highest Share of Foreign-Born Workers
Miscellaneous agricultural workers including animal breeders 63.0%
Software Developers Applications and Systems Software 45.1%
Maids and Housekeeping Cleaners 41.7%
Packers and Packagers Hand 41.6%
Computer Programmers 31.4%

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 Washington remains a leading innovator in STEM fields like software development and biotechnology.

STEM workers who are immigrants 24.0%
STEM Master’s students who are foreign nationals 21.9%
STEM PhD students who are foreign nationals 29.9%


In the coming years, the American healthcare industry is projected to see incredibly rapid growth—adding more new positions from 2014 to 2024 than any other industry in our economy. In Washington, a state where almost one out of every seven residents is currently elderly, finding enough healthcare workers remains a challenge—and one that will likely worsen in the future. Immigrants, however, are already helping fill gaps in the healthcare workforce.

Open healthcare jobs to unemployed healthcare workers 10:1
Doctors who were educated abroad 18.0%
Psychiatrists who were educated abroad 19.0%
Nurses who are foreign-born 13.9%
Health aides who are foreign-born 20.3%


In 2014, the agriculture industry contributed nearly $7.5 billion to Washington's GDP. Within that massive industry, fresh produce played a prominent role. In 2014, Washington farms grew almost $4.4 billion worth of fresh fruits, vegetables, and nuts—goods that almost always must be harvested by hand. This makes the state’s agriculture industry inherently reliant on immigrants. In 2014, almost 70 percent of all hired farmworkers in the state of Washington were born abroad.

Share of fresh fruit and vegetable farms 58.4%
Share of misc. agriculture workers, foreign-born 73.5%
Share of all hired farmworkers in Washington that are immigrants 69.5%


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

Immigrant homeowners 200,419
Share of recent homebuyers who were foreign-born 14.8%
Housing wealth held by immigrant households $71.0B
Amount paid by immigrant-led households in rent $192.8M

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 Washington, but they make a big impact.

Students at Washington colleges and universities who are international 6.2%
Economic contribution of international students $615.6M
Jobs supported by international students 6,166

Voting Power

Nationwide, the power of immigrant voters is likely to continue to be a large factor in upcoming elections. In 2014, Washington was home to more than 405,000 foreign-born residents who were eligible to vote—a group that made up more than one in 12 of the state's eligible voters. Although few would call Washington a swing state, the sheer size of the immigrant voting bloc here means it has a powerful impact on the way the state votes in both national and state elections. In 2012, for instance, Barack Obama won Washington by almost 465,000 votes. The total number of eligible immigrant voters in the state is only 53,000 less than that margin.

Immigrants eligible to vote 405,129
Immigrants registered to vote 242,448
Immigrants eligible to vote in 2020 450,805
2012 presidential election margin of victory 464,726

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

Undocumented immigrants 251,703
Share of undocumented immigrants, working age 80.6%
Undocumented entrepreneurs 14,827
Undocumented Household Income $4.7B
Taxes Paid $590.6M
State & Local Taxes $205.1M
Federal Taxes $385.5M
Total Spending Power $4.1B

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