Immigrants in Iowa, Host State of Tonight’s Democratic Debate

On Saturday night, the Democratic candidates will meet for the second primary debate (#DemDebate) in Des Moines, Iowa. Ahead of the debate, here are a few facts about Iowa’s immigrant population.

Although Iowa’s foreign-born community is relatively small – representing just 4.5 percent of the state’s population – this group grew by 52 percent between 2000 and 2013. And, in cities across Iowa, immigrants are helping to grow the economy, contributing to critical sectors like agriculture and meatpacking, and earning Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) educational degrees.


In Iowa, immigrant-owned businesses generate $216 million in annual business income. Furthermore, immigrants or their children have founded some of the state’s most prominent companies, including the Diamond-Vogel Paint Company and Casey’s General Stores, which employ more than 27,000 people across the country.


Between 2000 and 2010, almost 11,000 immigrants arrived in Polk County, which includes the cities of Des Moines and Altoona. By moving into neighborhoods formerly in decline, immigrants boosted the housing wealth of area residents––adding more than$210 million to housing wealth overall.


In 2012, 18 percent of physicians in Iowa had graduated from an international medical school.


Almost 41 percent of STEM graduates at Iowa’s most research-intensive universities are foreign-born and, between 2006 and 2010, temporary residents earned 70 percent of engineering PhD in the state.

To learn more about immigration in Iowa—and in states across the country—check out our interactive map.

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…