Immigrants and the economy in:


Today, Massachusetts is home to more than 1.1 million immigrants. More than one out of every seven residents of the state are foreign-born. These new Americans serve as everything from medical scientists to home health aides, making them critical contributors to Massachusetts’ economic success overall. Immigrant entrepreneurs have also long been a critical part of Massachusetts’ economic success story. In fact, 58 percent of Fortune 500 companies based in Massachusetts were founded by immigrants or their children; those firms generate $136.8 billion in annual revenue and employ more than 466,000 people globally.

  • 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 Massachusetts, 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 4.7% 20.3%
16-64 80.2% 63.8%
65+ 15.0% 16.0%


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 Massachusetts, like the country as a whole, immigrants are currently punching above their weight class as entrepreneurs. Foreign-born workers currently make up one out of every five entrepreneurs in the state, despite accounting for 16.5 percent of Massachusetts’ population.

People employed by immigrant-owned firms 134,477
Immigrant entrepreneurs 68,699
Business income of immigrant-owned firms $1.9B
Fortune 500 companies in Massachusetts founded by immigrants or their children 58.3%

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

Immigrant Household Income $42.9B
Taxes Paid $11.9B
State & Local Taxes $3.5B
Federal Taxes $8.4B
Total Spending Power $31.0B


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 Massachusetts, where immigrants play a particularly large role as maids, medical scientists, and chefs.

Educational Attainment by Nativity, Age 25+
Workforce Education Foreign-Born Population Native-Born Population
Less Than High School 21.8% 6.4%
High School & Some College 41.2% 49.4%
Bachelor's Degree 17.2% 25.5%
Graduate Degree 19.8% 18.8%
Top Industries with Highest Share of Foreign-Born Workers
Private households 57.9%
Services to buildings and dwellings 56.4%
Traveler accommodation 40.8%
Grocery and related product merchant wholesalers 37.9%
Nursing care facilities (skilled nursing facilities) 36.6%
Top Occupations with Highest Share of Foreign-Born Workers
Maids and housekeeping cleaners 72.1%
Medical scientists, and life scientists, all other 59.2%
Cooks 49.5%
Taxi drivers and chauffeurs 49.4%
Nursing, psychiatric, and home health aides 48.0%

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 Massachusetts remains a leading innovator in industries like healthcare and scientific research.

STEM workers who are immigrants 27.9%
STEM Master's students who are foreign nationals 32.8%
STEM PhD students who are foreign nationals 35.9%


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 Massachusetts, 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 8:1
Doctors who were educated abroad 24.6%
Psychiatrists who were educated abroad 23.1%
Nurses who are foreign-born 13.1%
Health aides who are foreign-born 41.1%


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

Immigrant homeowners 227,574
Share of recent homebuyers who were foreign-born 19.0%
Housing wealth held by immigrant households $107.5B
Amount paid by immigrant-led households in rent $3.6B

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 Massachusetts, but they make a big impact.

Students at Massachusetts colleges and universities who are international students 10.8%
Economic contribution of international students $2.1B
Jobs supported by international students 29,160

Voting Power

In 2016, Massachusetts was home to almost 568,000 foreign-born residents who were eligible to vote—a group that made up more than one in 10 of the state’s eligible voters. An estimated roughly 348,000 foreign-born Massachusettsans had also taken the step of formally registering. Although few would call Massachusetts a swing state, the sheer size of the immigrant voting bloc here means it has a meaningful impact on the way the state votes in both national and state elections.

Immigrants eligible to vote 567,625
Immigrants registered to vote 348,818
Immigrants eligible to vote in 2020 621,683
2016 presidential election margin of victory 904,303

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

Undocumented immigrants 158,189
Share of undocumented immigrants, working age 87.4%
Undocumented Entrepreneurs 8,699
Undocumented Household Income $3.9B
Taxes Paid $517.6M
State & Local Taxes $167.2M
Federal Taxes $350.4M
Total Spending Power $3.4B

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 16,483
Share of DACA Eligible Population in Labor Force that is Employed 95.2%
DACA-Eligible Household Income $404.2M
State & Local Taxes $32.3M
Federal Taxes $35.4M
Total Spending Power $336.5M

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 64,190
State's Share of all Likely Refugees 2.8%
Share of Overall State Population, Refugee 1.0%
Taxes & Spending Power
Refugee Household Income $2.4B
Taxes Paid $670.7M
State & Local Taxes $196.6M
Federal Taxes $474.1M
Refugee Spending Power $1.8B

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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…