Immigrants and the economy in:

West Virginia
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Between 2010 and 2014, West Virginia’s foreign-born population grew by an impressive 19 percent; this increase helped West Virginia avoid the type of sharp population decline that has hurt other cities and states in recent years. Immigrants contribute to the state as taxpayers, consumers, and members of the workforce. They also play an especially valuable role as STEM workers, healthcare professionals, and home buyers as the state’s population ages.

  • Immigrant Residents

    26,821
  • Immigrant Share of Population

    1.5%
  • Immigrant Taxes Paid (2014)

    $176.9M
  • Immigrant Spending Power (2014)

    $478.2M
  • Immigrant Entrepreneurs

    722
  • Employees at Immigrant-Owned Firms

    9,863

Demographics

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. As West Virginia's slow population growth may potentially deprive businesses of customers and employers of a workforce they can depend on as more baby boomers retire, immigrants are likely to help to address some of these demographic challenges.

Age Group Foreign-Born Population Share Native-Born Population Share
0-24 24.8% 30.1%
25-64 58.4% 52.1%
65+ 16.8% 17.9%

Entrepreneurship

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 West Virginia, like the country as a whole, immigrants are currently punching above their weight class as entrepreneurs.

People employed by immigrant-owned firms 9,863
Immigrant entrepreneurs 722
Business income of immigrant-owned firms $0.1M

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

Immigrant Household Income $655.0M
Taxes Paid $176.9M
State & Local Taxes $51.9M
Federal Taxes $125.0M
Total Spending Power $478.2M

Workforce

Nationally, immigrants are 17.2 percent more likely to hold an advanced degree than the native-born. West Virginia has the widest gap in educational attainment in the country: 21.7% of immigrants have a graduate degree compared to just 7.4% of natives. Immigrants 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 West Virginia, immigrants play a particularly large role in the manufacturing industry, as wells as in the computer systems design industry.

Workforce Education Foreign-Born Population Native-Born Population
Less Than High School 14.0% 14.4%
High School & Some College 42.9% 66.6%
Bachelor's Degree 21.4% 11.5%
Graduate Degree 21.7% 7.4%
Top Industries with Highest Share of Foreign-Born Workers
Colleges, universities, and professional schools including junior colleges 9.0%
Computer systems design and related services  7.2%
Other health care services  5.7%
Automobile dealers  4.1%
Beauty salons  3.9%
Top Occupations with Highest Share of Foreign-Born Workers
Postsecondary Teachers 19.7%
Miscellaneous Assemblers and Fabricators 15.9%
Human Resource Workers 13.2%
Physicians and Surgeons 10.4%
Accountants and Auditors 9.8%

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 West Virginia remains a leading innovator in STEM fields like natural gas and advanced manufacturing.

STEM workers who are immigrants 3.9%
STEM Master’s students who are foreign nationals 19.4%
STEM PhD students who are foreign nationals 31.5%

Healthcare

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 West Virginia, a state where more than one out of every six 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 4:1
Doctors who were educated abroad 27.8%
Psychiatrists who were educated abroad 30.4%
Nurses who are foreign-born 0.8%
Health aides who are foreign-born 1.4%

Housing

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

Immigrant homeowners 6,177
Share of recent homebuyers who were foreign-born 1.2%
Housing wealth held by immigrant households $1.6B
Amount paid by immigrant-led households in rent $2.8M

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 West Virginia, but they make a big impact.

Students at West Virginia colleges and universities who are international 4.2%
Economic contribution of international students $91.2M
Jobs supported by international students 950

Voting Power

Nationwide, the power of immigrant voters is likely to continue to be a large factor in upcoming elections. Given their modest numbers, immigrants may not sway presidential elections in West Virginia where Mitt Romney won by roughly 179,000 votes in 2012, but their votes may make a difference in closer statewide contests and primaries in the near future.

Immigrants eligible to vote 11,373
Immigrants registered to vote 7,072
Immigrants eligible to vote in 2020 12,316
2012 presidential election margin of victory 179,386

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 West Virginia, where undocumented immigrants contribute millions of dollars in taxes each year.

Undocumented immigrants 3,884
Share of undocumented immigrants, working age 69.4%
Undocumented Household Income $46.7M
Taxes Paid $5.6M
State & Local Taxes $2.0M
Federal Taxes $3.6M
Total Spending Power $41.1M

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