Immigrants and the economy in:


Today, Florida is home to more than 4 million immigrants. That means that more than one in five residents of Florida were born abroad. These immigrants play an important role in this state, where more than 19 percent of the population is already elderly—a higher proportion than any other place in America. By infusing Florida with young workers, immigrants help replenish the workforce and strengthen the state’s tax base. New Americans in Florida today serve as everything from farm laborers to entrepreneurs, 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 Florida, 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 4.0% 21.3%
16-64 74.7% 59.2%
65+ 21.3% 19.5%


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 Florida, like the country as a whole, immigrants are currently punching far above their weight class as entrepreneurs. Foreign-born workers currently make up roughly one in three entrepreneurs in the entire state, despite accounting for 20.0 percent of Florida’s population.

People employed by immigrant-owned firms 506,778
Immigrant entrepreneurs 381,494
Business income of immigrant-owned firms $6.3B
Fortune 500 companies in Florida founded by immigrants or their children 47.1%

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

Immigrant Household Income $110.1B
Taxes Paid $26.3B
State & Local Taxes $7.5B
Federal Taxes $18.8B
Total Spending Power $83.8B


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 Florida, where immigrants play a particularly large role as personal appearance workers, agricultural workers, and nursing aides.

Educational Attainment by Nativity, Age 25+
Workforce Education Foreign-Born Population Native-Born Population
Less Than High School 22.3% 9.2%
High School & Some College 51.1% 61.4%
Bachelor's Degree 16.7% 18.8%
Graduate Degree 9.9% 10.6%
Top Industries with Highest Share of Foreign-Born Workers
Private households 62.0%
Nail salons and other personal care services 58.2%
Crop production 57.8%
Taxi and limousine service 50.1%
Drycleaning and laundry services 49.7%
Top Occupations with Highest Share of Foreign-Born Workers
Miscellaneous personal appearance workers 75.7%
Miscellaneous agricultural workers 66.2%
Maids and housekeeping cleaners 64.6%
Carpet, floor, and tile installers and finishers 57.0%
Taxi drivers and chauffeurs 51.0%

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 Florida remains a leading innovator in industries like aviation, aerospace, and life sciences.

STEM workers who are immigrants 24.6%
STEM Master's students who are foreign nationals 25.8%
STEM PhD students who are foreign nationals 35.5%


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 Florida, a well-known destination for retirees and where more than one out of every 5 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 8:1
Doctors who were educated abroad 35.8%
Psychiatrists who were educated abroad 46.9%
Nurses who are foreign-born 25.3%
Health aides who are foreign-born 44.7%


In 2014, the agriculture industry contributed $6.4 billion to the state’s gross domestic product, placing the state among the top 10 nationally in terms of the size of that contribution. That year, Florida exported more fresh fruits, as measured in farm receipts, than all but two other states in the country. It also produced almost $1.3 billion worth of Florida oranges, an iconic crop long associated with the state. Florida’s leading role as a grower of fresh produce makes the state’s agriculture industry inherently reliant on immigrants, as these are almost always harvested by hand.

Share of fresh fruit and vegetable farms 39.2%
Share of misc. agriculture workers, foreign-born 77.4%
Share of all agriculture workers, foreign-born 51.0%
Amount agriculture directly contributed to Florida's economy $6.4B


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

Immigrant homeowners 952,062
Share of recent homebuyers who were foreign-born 20.1%
Housing wealth held by immigrant households $271.2B
Amount paid by immigrant-led households in rent $9.3B

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 Florida, but they make a big impact.

Students at Florida colleges and universities who are international students 4.0%
Economic contribution of international students $1.3B
Jobs supported by international students 16,036

Voting Power

Nationwide, the power of immigrant voters is likely to continue to be a large factor in upcoming elections. In 2016, Florida was home to more than 2.2 million foreign-born residents who were eligible to vote, including an estimated 1.5 million foreign-born residents who had formally registered. Those numbers are particularly meaningful given the narrow margins of victory that have decided elections in the state in recent years. In 2016, Donald Trump won Florida by roughly 113,000 votes.

Immigrants eligible to vote 2,266,116
Immigrants registered to vote 1,499,657
Immigrants eligible to vote in 2020 2,421,313
2016 presidential election margin of victory 112,911

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

Undocumented immigrants 894,018
Share of undocumented immigrants, working age 85.8%
Undocumented Entrepreneurs 91,570
Undocumented Household Income $14.7B
Taxes Paid $1.7B
State & Local Taxes $543.2M
Federal Taxes $1.1B
Total Spending Power $13.0B

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 106,119
Share of DACA Eligible Population in Labor Force that is Employed 90.0%
Number of DACA-Eligible Entrepreneurs 3,676
DACA-Eligible Household Income $1.4B
State & Local Taxes $120.6M
Federal Taxes $93.6M
Total Spending Power $1.2B

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 77,963
State's Share of all Likely Refugees 3.4%
Share of Overall State Population, Refugee 0.4%
Taxes & Spending Power
Refugee Household Income $2.5B
Taxes Paid $624.4M
State & Local Taxes $165.3M
Federal Taxes $459.1M
Refugee Spending Power $1.9B

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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…