Immigrants and the economy in:

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The sustained growth experienced by Idaho in recent years means that today the state is home to almost 100,000 immigrants. These largely working-age immigrants have helped Idaho, a state with a consistently low unemployment rate, meet its workforce needs in recent years. New Americans in the state serve as everything from farm workers to surgeons, making them vital contributors to Idaho’s economic success.

  • 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 Idaho, 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 4.3% 24.3%
16-64 84.4% 60.2%
65+ 11.2% 15.5%


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. Idaho is currently home to more than 5,800 foreign-born entrepreneurs. Such business owners are creating real and meaningful economic opportunities to local, U.S.-born workers.

People employed by immigrant-owned firms 14,616
Immigrant entrepreneurs 5,862
Business income of immigrant-owned firms $98.4M

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

Immigrant Household Income $2.4B
Taxes Paid $564.8M
State & Local Taxes $189.6M
Federal Taxes $375.2M
Total Spending Power $1.8B


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 Idaho, where immigrants play a particularly large role in crop production, animal production, and dairy products.

Educational Attainment by Nativity, Age 25+
Workforce Education Foreign-Born Population Native-Born Population
Less Than High School 34.2% 7.6%
High School & Some College 45.7% 64.6%
Bachelor's Degree 11.0% 19.1%
Graduate Degree 9.1% 8.7%
Top Industries with Highest Share of Foreign-Born Workers
Animal production and aquaculture 41.2%
Crop production 32.6%
Restaurants and other food services 13.1%
Truck transportation 8.7%
Colleges, universities, and professional schools 7.4%
Top Occupations with Highest Share of Foreign-Born Workers
Miscellaneous agricultural workers 48.0%
Cooks 29.1%
Farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers 18.5%
Laborers and freight, stock, and material movers, hand 18.2%
Janitors and building cleaners 17.1%

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 Idaho remains a leading innovator in industries like nuclear energy and robotics.

STEM workers who are immigrants 9.5%
STEM Master's students who are foreign nationals 11.0%
STEM PhD students who are foreign nationals 33.3%


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 Idaho, a state where more than one out of every 7 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 12:1
Doctors who were educated abroad 9.0%
Psychiatrists who were educated abroad 9.7%
Nurses who are foreign-born 4.1%
Health aides who are foreign-born 1.8%


In 2014, the agriculture sector contributed almost $4.2 billion to the state’s economy, placing the state among the top 20 in the country in terms of the size of that contribution. It also directly employed more than 35,300 Idahoans. Within that massive industry, potatoes—an iconic crop for this state—and dairy products played a significant role. These crops and products require significant manpower, with immigrants playing a prominent role in both industries.

Share of all agriculture workers, foreign-born 33.9%
Share of dairy workers who are foreign-born 39.7%


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

Immigrant homeowners 22,226
Share of recent homebuyers who were foreign-born 5.7%
Housing wealth held by immigrant households $4.0B
Amount paid by immigrant-led households in rent $105.1M

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 Idaho, but they make a big impact.

Students at Idaho colleges and universities who are international students 7.9%
Economic contribution of international students $237.1M
Jobs supported by international students 2,622

Voting Power

In 2016, Idaho was home to more than 32,000 foreign-born residents who were eligible to vote, including an estimated 13,000 foreign-born residents who had formally registered. Those numbers are unlikely to sway a presidential election in this relatively safe Republican state, where Donald Trump won by roughly 219,000 votes in 2016. Still, it can make a difference in closer statewide contests and primaries.

Immigrants eligible to vote 32,558
Immigrants registered to vote 13,162
Immigrants eligible to vote in 2020 37,221
2016 presidential election margin of victory 219,290

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 Idaho, where undocumented immigrants contribute tens of millions of dollars in taxes each year.

Undocumented immigrants 32,541
Share of undocumented immigrants, working age 93.9%

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 5,392
State's Share of all Likely Refugees 0.2%
Share of Overall State Population, Refugee 0.3%
Taxes & Spending Power
Refugee Household Income $123.9M
Taxes Paid $29.7M
State & Local Taxes $9.6M
Federal Taxes $20.1M
Refugee Spending Power $94.2M

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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…