Immigrants and the economy in:


More than one million Georgia residents were born abroad, the 8th-largest immigrant population in the country. Immigrants play a particularly important role in the agriculture sector, which contributes $5 billion to the state’s GDP annually, by making up 35 percent of workers in the industry. Georgia’s new Americans also play outsize roles in the workforce, serving as everything from carpenters to computer programmers.

  • 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 Georgia, 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 5.0% 23.4%
16-64 85.5% 63.0%
65+ 9.6% 13.6%


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 Georgia, like the country as a whole, immigrants are currently punching far above their weight class as entrepreneurs, with more than 93,000 business owners being born abroad.

People employed by immigrant-owned firms 136,924
Immigrant entrepreneurs 93,161
Business income of immigrant-owned firms $2.0B
Fortune 500 companies in Georgia founded by immigrants or their children 27.8%

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

Immigrant Household Income $31.4B
Taxes Paid $8.1B
State & Local Taxes $2.6B
Federal Taxes $5.5B
Total Spending Power $23.3B


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 Georgia, where immigrants play a particularly large role as painters, software developers, and agricultural workers.

Educational Attainment by Nativity, Age 25+
Workforce Education Foreign-Born Population Native-Born Population
Less Than High School 27.7% 11.4%
High School & Some College 38.8% 58.5%
Bachelor's Degree 19.4% 18.8%
Graduate Degree 14.1% 11.3%
Top Industries with Highest Share of Foreign-Born Workers
Nail salons and other personal care services 59.9%
Private households 36.8%
Landscaping services 35.6%
Gasoline stations 33.3%
Carpet and rug mills 32.2%
Top Occupations with Highest Share of Foreign-Born Workers
Miscellaneous personal appearance workers 75.9%
Painters and paperhangers 59.0%
Maids and housekeeping cleaners 44.8%
Carpenters 39.5%
Miscellaneous agricultural workers 39.4%

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 Georgia remains a leading innovator in industries like aviation and aerospace.

STEM workers who are immigrants 21.0%
STEM Master's students who are foreign nationals 27.3%
STEM PhD students who are foreign nationals 42.9%


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 Georgia, 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 11:1
Doctors who were educated abroad 22.6%
Psychiatrists who were educated abroad 29.8%
Nurses who are foreign-born 11.0%
Health aides who are foreign-born 11.7%


In 2014, the agriculture industry contributed almost $5.0 billion to Georgia’s GDP—placing the state among the top 15 in the country in terms of the size of that contribution. It also directly employed almost 44,000 Georgians. Within that massive industry, fresh fruits and vegetables played a prominent role—growers in the state produced more than $760 million worth of fresh fruits, vegetables, and tree nuts. Many of these crops, such as blueberries, need to be handpicked, making Georgia's agriculture industry heavily reliant on immigrant workers.

Share of fresh fruit and vegetable farms 28.4%
Share of misc. agriculture workers, foreign-born 48.9%
Share of all agriculture workers, foreign-born 23.6%
Amount earned from sale of Georgia blueberries in 2014 $118.8M


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

Immigrant homeowners 224,891
Share of recent homebuyers who were foreign-born 14.2%
Housing wealth held by immigrant households $54.3B
Amount paid by immigrant-led households in rent $2.0B

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 Georgia, but they make a big impact.

Students at Georgia colleges and universities who are international students 4.0%
Economic contribution of international students $677.6M
Jobs supported by international students 9,401

Voting Power

In 2016, Georgia was home to almost 409,000 foreign-born eligible voters, including an estimated roughly 200,000 immigrant residents who had formally registered. Although few would call Georgia a swing state today, the sheer size of the state’s immigrant voting population means it has the potential to powerfully impact which way the state votes in national and state elections in the coming years.

Immigrants eligible to vote 408,923
Immigrants registered to vote 198,475
Immigrants eligible to vote in 2020 454,159
2016 presidential election margin of victory 211,141

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

Undocumented immigrants 398,294
Share of undocumented immigrants, working age 89.7%
Undocumented Entrepreneurs 35,310
Undocumented Household Income $7.8B
Taxes Paid $888.8M
State & Local Taxes $335.9M
Federal Taxes $552.9M
Total Spending Power $6.9B

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 46,105
Share of DACA Eligible Population in Labor Force that is Employed 91.8%
DACA-Eligible Household Income $530.8M
State & Local Taxes $42.6M
Federal Taxes $33.0M
Total Spending Power $455.2M

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 61,409
State's Share of all Likely Refugees 2.7%
Share of Overall State Population, Refugee 0.6%
Taxes & Spending Power
Refugee Household Income $1.6B
Taxes Paid $407.7M
State & Local Taxes $133.6M
Federal Taxes $274.1M
Refugee Spending Power $1.2B

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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…