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Immigrants and the economy in:


Unlike the vast majority of states across the country that have attracted immigrants in the past several years, Alabama has seen a significant decline in its foreign-born population. Since 2010, the foreign-born population of the state has fallen slightly, by about 12,000 people. Despite this, Alabama is still home to many immigrants who are workers, entrepreneurs, and taxpayers. These new Americans serve as everything from surgeons to metalworkers, making them valuable contributors to the state’s economy.

  • Immigrant Residents

  • Immigrant Share of Population

  • Immigrant Taxes Paid

  • Immigrant Spending Power

  • 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. As Alabama'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 address some of these demographic challenges.

Age Group Foreign-Born Population Share Native-Born Population Share
0-15 4.5% 20.3%
16-64 83.8% 63.4%
65+ 11.7% 16.3%


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

People employed by immigrant-owned firms 37,125
Immigrant entrepreneurs 15,591
Business income of immigrant-owned firms $250.9M
Fortune 500 companies in Alabama founded by immigrants or their children 100.0%

Taxes & Spending Power

Nationally, immigrants earned $1.4 trillion in 2016 and contributed more than $117 billion in state and local taxes, as well as almost $262 billion in federal taxes. This left them with more than $1.0 billion in spending power. Immigrants in Alabama play an important role contributing to the state’s economy both as consumers and taxpayers.

Immigrant Household Income $4.6B
Taxes Paid $1.1B
State & Local Taxes $326.9M
Federal Taxes $817.2M
Total Spending Power $3.4B


Nationally, immigrants are 9.2 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 Alabama, where immigrants play a particularly large role as surgeons, construction workers, and teachers, as well as in the animal processing industry.

Educational Attainment by Nativity, Age 25+
Workforce Education Foreign-Born Population Native-Born Population
Less Than High School 31.3% 14.4%
High School & Some College 37.6% 61.1%
Bachelor's Degree 15.7% 15.3%
Graduate Degree 15.4% 9.2%
Top Industries with Highest Share of Foreign-Born Workers
Landscaping services 15.4%
Animal slaughtering and processing 13.7%
Beauty salons 12.2%
Traveler accommodation 11.0%
Construction 9.8%
Top Occupations with Highest Share of Foreign-Born Workers
Postsecondary teachers 17.1%
Maids and housekeeping cleaners 16.0%
Construction laborers 15.9%
Physicians and surgeons 14.9%
Carpenters 13.4%

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 Alabama remains a leading innovator in industries like automobile manufacturing and industrial chemicals.

STEM workers who are immigrants 6.2%
STEM Master's students who are foreign nationals 17.4%
STEM PhD students who are foreign nationals 37.5%


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 Alabama, a state where more than 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 9:1
Doctors who were educated abroad 18.5%
Psychiatrists who were educated abroad 32.4%
Nurses who are foreign-born 2.1%
Health aides who are foreign-born 1.8%


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

Immigrant homeowners 33,818
Share of recent homebuyers who were foreign-born 4.2%
Housing wealth held by immigrant households $6.6B
Amount paid by immigrant-led households in rent $235.7M

International Students

International students in the United States contributed more than $36.9 billion to the U.S. economy in the 2016-2017 school year and supported more than 450,000 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 Alabama, but they make a big impact.

Students at Alabama colleges and universities who are international students 2.7%
Economic contribution of international students $210.7M
Jobs supported by international students 2,306

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 Alabama, where Donald Trump won by roughly 588,000 votes in 2016, but their votes may make a difference in closer statewide contests and primaries in the near future.

Immigrants eligible to vote 58,585
Immigrants registered to vote 26,934
Immigrants eligible to vote in 2020 64,106
2016 presidential election margin of victory 588,708

Undocumented Immigrants

The United States is currently home to an estimated 11.0 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 Alabama, where undocumented immigrants contribute tens of millions of dollars in taxes each year.

Undocumented immigrants 58,824
Share of undocumented immigrants, working age 93.4%
Undocumented Household Income $1.0B
Taxes Paid $104.5M
State & Local Taxes $44.5M
Federal Taxes $60.0M
Total Spending Power $931.1M

The Economic Impact of Refugees

Despite leaving extreme and dangerous situations in their home countries, refugees are often able to rebound and prosper as they become more integrated into American society. Nationwide, we find that refugees hold billions of dollars in spending power and pay more than $20 billion in tax contributions to federal, state, and local governments each year. At the state level, they contribute millions of added dollars to local economies, making them an important driver of growth and prosperity for communities around the country.

Key Stats
Number of Likely Refugees 5,886
State's Share of all Likely Refugees 0.3%
Share of Overall State Population, Refugee 0.1%
Taxes & Spending Power
Refugee Household Income $160.2M
Taxes Paid $35.8M
State & Local Taxes $13.3M
Federal Taxes $22.5M
Refugee Spending Power $124.5M

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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…