California’s Primary: Immigrants in the Golden State

In the final round of state primaries, Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders battle it out today in California. Although Clinton has already clinched the necessary number of delegates to secure the Democratic nomination, there are still 550 delegates on the line.

The Golden State has long been a hub for immigrants, especially for new Americans from Mexico, the Philippines, and China. In fact, California is home to more immigrants than any other state. Today, more than 10 million Californians, or 27 percent of the state’s population, is foreign-born. That’s 2.5 times as many immigrants as there are in New York, the state with the second-largest immigrant community.

As Californians turn out to vote, find out how their state’s growing foreign-born population is contributing to its economy:

STEM Fields

University of California-Berkeley and Caltech are just two examples of the state’s universities with rigorous post-graduate engineering programs. Between 2006 and 2010, more than half of the state’s engineering PhD candidates were foreign-born, and in 2009, 42 percent of STEM graduates were immigrants.

Contributions to entitlement programs

Hispanic immigrants in California have played a particularly important role in supporting American entitlement programs. In 2013, foreign-born Hispanics represented 10.5 percent, or $81.6 billion, of the state’s spending power. The federal, state, and local taxes they paid added more than $13 billion to Social Security and more than $3 billion to the Medicare trust fund.


Some of the state’s biggest companies, including eBay, Oracle, and Qualcomm were founded by immigrants, and more than a third of California businesses are owned by immigrants. Between 2007 and 2011, new Americans founded 44.6 percent of new businesses in the state. Reform that helps foreign-born entrepreneurs secure visas will support and further economic growth in the Golden State, especially within its vibrant startup community.


New Americans have boosted California’s housing economy as well. In the span of ten years, more than 90,000 immigrants moved to San Diego County and helped raise the value of the average home there by over $10,000.

To learn more, check out our interactive map, which shows how immigrants impact state economies across the country.

About NAE

New American Economy is a bipartisan research and advocacy organization fighting for smart federal, state, and local immigration policies that help grow our economy and create jobs for all Americans. More…