Immigrants and the economy in:


Between 2010 and 2016, the number of immigrants living in Minnesota increased by almost 70,000 people, bringing the current total of immigrants in the state to almost 450,000. These new Americans support Minnesota’s economy by paying taxes and spending the money they earn at local businesses. They also fill key jobs, working as software developers, cooks, and truck and tractor operators.

  • 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 Minnesota, 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 6.8% 22.1%
16-64 84.1% 62.3%
65+ 9.1% 15.6%


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. Minnesota is currently home to almost 20,000 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 52,932
Immigrant entrepreneurs 19,911
Business income of immigrant-owned firms $376.2M
Fortune 500 companies in Minnesota founded by immigrants or their children 35.3%

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

Immigrant Household Income $13.8B
Taxes Paid $3.7B
State & Local Taxes $1.3B
Federal Taxes $2.5B
Total Spending Power $10.0B


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 Minnesota, where immigrants play a particularly large role as packers, software designers, and truck and tractor operators.

Educational Attainment by Nativity, Age 25+
Workforce Education Foreign-Born Population Native-Born Population
Less Than High School 27.6% 4.9%
High School & Some College 41.2% 60.3%
Bachelor's Degree 18.4% 23.4%
Graduate Degree 12.8% 11.4%
Top Industries with Highest Share of Foreign-Born Workers
Animal slaughtering and processing 47.0%
Services to buildings and dwellings 34.5%
Animal food, grain and oilseed milling 24.7%
Employment services 22.0%
Computer systems design and related services 21.1%
Top Occupations with Highest Share of Foreign-Born Workers
Software developers, applications and systems software 30.0%
Inspectors, testers, sorters, samplers, and weighers 29.7%
Computer programmers 28.5%
Miscellaneous assemblers and fabricators 28.3%
Miscellaneous agricultural workers 22.8%

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 Minnesota remains a leading innovator in industries like precision manufacturing and scientific and technical services.

STEM workers who are immigrants 15.1%
STEM Master's students who are foreign nationals 10.1%
STEM PhD students who are foreign nationals 16.9%


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 Minnesota, 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 15:1
Doctors who were educated abroad 22.5%
Psychiatrists who were educated abroad 26.0%
Nurses who are foreign-born 9.1%
Health aides who are foreign-born 15.9%


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

Immigrant homeowners 85,947
Share of recent homebuyers who were foreign-born 7.0%
Housing wealth held by immigrant households $21.2B
Amount paid by immigrant-led households in rent $931.9M

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 Minnesota, but they make a big impact.

Students at Minnesota colleges and universities who are international students 3.5%
Economic contribution of international students $422.3M
Jobs supported by international students 4,186

Voting Power

In 2016, Minnesota was home to almost 216,000 foreign-born residents who were eligible to vote, including an estimated 136,000 foreign-born residents who had formally registered. Those numbers are particularly meaningful given the narrow margins of victory that have decided elections in this swing state in recent years. In 2016, Hillary Clinton won Minnesota by less than 45,000 votes, significantly less than Minnesota’s total number of eligible immigrant voters.

Immigrants eligible to vote 216,029
Immigrants registered to vote 136,075
Immigrants eligible to vote in 2020 238,755
2016 presidential election margin of victory 44,593

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

Undocumented immigrants 89,560
Share of undocumented immigrants, working age 92.5%
Undocumented Household Income $1.6B
Taxes Paid $188.8M
State & Local Taxes $77.6M
Federal Taxes $111.1M
Total Spending Power $1.4B

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 94,175
State's Share of all Likely Refugees 4.1%
Share of Overall State Population, Refugee 1.7%
Taxes & Spending Power
Refugee Household Income $2.4B
Taxes Paid $607.9M
State & Local Taxes $227.2M
Federal Taxes $380.7M
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…