Immigrants and the economy in:


Colorado is home to some of the nation’s fastest-growing cities. From 2013 to 2014, Greeley and Fort Collins ranked among the top 20 fastest-growing metropolitan areas in the country. Foreign-born residents moving to the state have been a critical driver of that population growth. By 2016, more than a half-million immigrants were living in the state. These New Americans serve as everything from technology entrepreneurs to farm laborers, making them critical contributors to Colorado’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 Colorado, 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 6.2% 21.8%
16-64 82.5% 64.6%
65+ 11.3% 13.7%


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

People employed by immigrant-owned firms 83,794
Immigrant entrepreneurs 36,354
Business income of immigrant-owned firms $1.1B
Fortune 500 companies in Colorado founded by immigrants or their children 30.0%

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

Immigrant Household Income $15.9B
Taxes Paid $3.9B
State & Local Taxes $1.2B
Federal Taxes $2.7B
Total Spending Power $12.1B


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 Colorado, where immigrants play a particularly large role in accommodation, construction, and agriculture sectors.

Educational Attainment by Nativity, Age 25+
Workforce Education Foreign-Born Population Native-Born Population
Less Than High School 32.5% 5.3%
High School & Some College 40.4% 53.0%
Bachelor's Degree 14.9% 26.2%
Graduate Degree 12.2% 15.6%
Top Industries with Highest Share of Foreign-Born Workers
Services to buildings and dwellings 41.6%
Nail salons and other personal care services 39.6%
Traveler accommodation 26.8%
Scientific research and development services 26.5%
Construction 24.3%
Top Occupations with Highest Share of Foreign-Born Workers
Maids and housekeeping cleaners 54.6%
Construction laborers 37.0%
Miscellaneous agricultural workers 34.7%
Carpenters 32.8%
Miscellaneous assemblers and fabricators 32.4%

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 Colorado remains a leading innovator in industries like aerospace and bioscience.

STEM workers who are immigrants 11.7%
STEM Master's students who are foreign nationals 14.9%
STEM PhD students who are foreign nationals 21.8%


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 Colorado, a state where more than one out of every 8 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 18:1
Doctors who were educated abroad 10.3%
Psychiatrists who were educated abroad 9.5%
Nurses who are foreign-born 6.4%
Health aides who are foreign-born 16.5%


In 2014, the agriculture industry contributed $2.8 billion to Colorado’s gross domestic product. It also directly employed more than 31,000 Coloradans. In that year, Colorado growers sold almost $300 million worth of fruits, vegetables, and tree nuts, with $172 million of that made from the sale of potatoes. While farmers are often able to use machines to unearth their crop, individual workers must work to man conveyer belts, picking out bruised or deformed potatoes that cannot be sold. This reliance on manpower means that immigrants made up a sizeable part of the state's agricultural workforce, with almost one out of every 5 agricultural workers being born abroad.

Share of fresh fruit and vegetable farms 18.0%
Share of misc. agriculture workers, foreign-born 35.2%
Share of all agriculture workers, foreign-born 18.4%
Amount agriculture directly contributes to Colorado's economy $2.8B


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

Immigrant homeowners 116,741
Share of recent homebuyers who were foreign-born 9.3%
Housing wealth held by immigrant households $38.9B
Amount paid by immigrant-led households in rent $1.2B

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 Colorado, but they make a big impact.

Students at Colorado colleges and universities who are international students 3.2%
Economic contribution of international students $380.7M
Jobs supported by international students 5,347

Voting Power

Nationwide, the power of immigrant voters is likely to continue to be a large factor in upcoming elections. In 2014, Colorado was home to almost 200,000 foreign-born residents who were eligible to vote, including an estimated 120,000 foreign-born residents who had formally registered. Those numbers are particularly meaningful given that Colorado has emerged in recent years as a hotly contested swing state. In 2016, Hillary Clinton won the state by 136,000 votes, while Barack Obama won in 2010 by 138,000 votes. However, in 2000 and 2004, however, the state voted for the Republican presidential candidate.

Immigrants eligible to vote 199,605
Immigrants registered to vote 120,345
Immigrants eligible to vote in 2020 219,150
2016 presidential election margin of victory 136,386

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

Undocumented immigrants 186,746
Share of undocumented immigrants, working age 90.8%
Undocumented Entrepreneurs 12,439
Undocumented Household Income $3.5B
Taxes Paid $350.2M
State & Local Taxes $141.4M
Federal Taxes $208.9M
Total Spending Power $3.2B

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 24,917
Share of DACA Eligible Population in Labor Force that is Employed 95.3%
DACA-Eligible Household Income $374.1M
State & Local Taxes $25.5M
Federal Taxes $26.6M
Total Spending Power $322.0M

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 34,206
State's Share of all Likely Refugees 1.5%
Share of Overall State Population, Refugee 0.6%
Taxes & Spending Power
Refugee Household Income $1.0B
Taxes Paid $247.4M
State & Local Taxes $72.1M
Federal Taxes $175.3M
Refugee Spending Power $756.9M

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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…