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Immigrants and the economy in:


After decades when states such as California, Florida, and New York attracted the majority of immigrants to the country, Arizona has recently emerged as a major destination for New Americans. Today, Arizona boasts the 11th-largest immigrant population in the United States, with over 940,000 foreign-born residents. New Americans in Arizona serve as everything from entrepreneurs to farm laborers, making them critical contributors to the state’s economic success overall.

  • 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. This is equally true in Arizona, 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
0-15 4.4% 23.4%
16-64 80.2% 59.5%
65+ 15.4% 17.1%


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 Arizona, like the country as a whole, immigrants are currently punching above their weight class as entrepreneurs, with more than 80,000 immigrants owning their own business.

People employed by immigrant-owned firms 113,760
Immigrant entrepreneurs 81,311
Business income of immigrant-owned firms $1.9B
Fortune 500 companies in Arizona founded by immigrants or their children 50.0%

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

Immigrant Household Income $25.3B
Taxes Paid $6.2B
State & Local Taxes $2.0B
Federal Taxes $4.2B
Total Spending Power $19.0B


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 Arizona, where immigrants play a particularly large role as crop production workers, cleaners, and physicians.

Educational Attainment by Nativity, Age 25+
Workforce Education Foreign-Born Population Native-Born Population
Less Than High School 35.1% 8.5%
High School & Some College 43.0% 61.4%
Bachelor's Degree 12.6% 19.0%
Graduate Degree 9.4% 11.1%
Top Industries with Highest Share of Foreign-Born Workers
Landscaping services 59.7%
Crop production 55.9%
Private households 53.5%
Nail salons and other personal care services 46.8%
Services to buildings and dwellings 45.6%
Top Occupations with Highest Share of Foreign-Born Workers
Miscellaneous agricultural workers 66.5%
Maids and housekeeping cleaners 57.8%
Grounds maintenance workers 57.5%
Carpenters 46.2%
Construction laborers 44.9%

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 Arizona remains a leading innovator in industries like advanced manufacturing and aerospace.

STEM workers who are immigrants 17.4%
STEM Master's students who are foreign nationals 21.7%
STEM PhD students who are foreign nationals 32.0%


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 Arizona, a state where more than one out of every 6 people is currently elderly, finding enough healthcare workers remains a challenge—and one that will likely worsen in the future.

Open healthcare jobs to unemployed healthcare workers 16:1
Doctors who were educated abroad 27.3%
Psychiatrists who were educated abroad 35.3%
Nurses who are foreign-born 13.7%
Health aides who are foreign-born 17.3%


One sector of the economy of particular importance to Arizona is agriculture. In 2014, the agriculture industry contributed nearly $2.5 billion to Arizona’s GDP. It also directly provided jobs to almost 30,000 Arizonans. Within that massive industry, fresh fruits and vegetables played a prominent role. In 2014, Arizona farms grew almost $897 million worth of fresh fruits, vegetables, and tree nuts. Immigrants are still a huge part of the state’s overall agricultural workforce. In 2014, almost 60 percent of agricultural workers in the state were born abroad.

Share of fresh fruit and vegetable farms 18.6%
Share of misc. agriculture workers, foreign-born 80.4%
Amount in sales that lettuce alone contributed to Arizona's economy $377.2M


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

Immigrant homeowners 229,409
Share of recent homebuyers who were foreign-born 14.5%
Housing wealth held by immigrant households $51.6B
Amount paid by immigrant-led households in rent $1.5B

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 also 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 Arizona, but they make a big impact.

Students at Arizona colleges and universities who are international students 3.1%
Economic contribution of international students $560.7M
Jobs supported by international students 7,695

Voting Power

In 2016, Arizona was home to roughly 385,000 foreign-born residents who were eligible to vote, including an estimated 246,000 foreign-born residents who had formally registered. The sheer size of the state’s immigrant voting bloc means it has the potential to powerfully impact which way the state votes in national and state elections. In 2016, for instance, Donald Trump won Arizona by 91,000 votes—a significantly smaller vote tally than the current number of eligible immigrant voters in the state.

Immigrants eligible to vote 385,537
Immigrants registered to vote 246,284
Immigrants eligible to vote in 2020 409,210
2016 presidential election margin of victory 91,234

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

Undocumented immigrants 247,319
Share of undocumented immigrants, working age 89.3%
Undocumented entrepreneurs 24,330
Undocumented immigrants 247,319
Share of undocumented immigrants, working age 89.3%
Undocumented Entrepreneurs 24,330
Undocumented Household Income $4.6B
Taxes Paid $515.3M
State & Local Taxes $196.9M
Federal Taxes $318.4M
Total Spending Power $4.1B

The DACA-Eligible Population

Our analysis of the 1.3 million DACA-eligible individuals nationwide found that DACA-eligible people were contribution billions of dollars to the U.S. economy. But DACA, of course, gains more resonance when we look beyond the national picture. Every state in the country is currently home to hundreds—or in many cases, thousands—of DACA-eligible people. Clawing back the protections afforded to this group upsets community networks and schools, and can hurt local employers and businesses dependent upon Dreamers to serve as workers and customers.

Number of DACA Eligible Residents 39,682
Share of DACA Eligible Population in Labor Force that is Employed 87.9%
DACA-Eligible Household Income $438.2M
State & Local Taxes $40.0M
Federal Taxes $26.3M
Total Spending Power $371.9M

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 40,123
State's Share of all Likely Refugees 1.7%
Share of Overall State Population, Refugee 0.6%
Taxes & Spending Power
Refugee Household Income $1.0B
Taxes Paid $251.4M
State & Local Taxes $83.1M
Federal Taxes $168.3M
Refugee Spending Power $780.9M

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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…