Immigrants and the economy in:

United States of America

  • 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.

Age Group Foreign-Born Population Share Native-Born Population Share
0-15 4.5% 22.6%
16-64 80.3% 62.2%
65+ 15.2% 15.2%


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.

People employed by immigrant-owned firms 7,996,327
Immigrant entrepreneurs 3,113,432
Business income of immigrant-owned firms $72.9B
Fortune 500 companies in United States of America founded by immigrants or their children 43.8%

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 play an important role contributing to their states' economies both as consumers and taxpayers.

Immigrant Household Income $1.4T
Taxes Paid $379.6B
State & Local Taxes $117.9B
Federal Taxes $261.7B
Total Spending Power $1.0T


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.

Educational Attainment by Nativity, Age 25+
Workforce Education Foreign-Born Population Native-Born Population
Less Than High School 28.9% 9.1%
High School & Some College 41.1% 59.3%
Bachelor's Degree 17.2% 19.8%
Graduate Degree 12.8% 11.8%
Top Industries with Highest Share of Foreign-Born Workers
Taxi and Limosine Service 52.4%
Apparel Accessories and other Apparel Manufacturing 50.0%
Cut and Sew Apparel Manufacturing 49.9%
Nail Salons and other personal care services 48.1%
Private Homes 45.5%
Top Occupations with Highest Share of Foreign-Born Workers
Personal appearance workers 65.5%
Graders and sorters 62.4%
Plasterers and stucco workers 56.1%
Sewing machine operators 51.8%
Maids and housekeeping 51.2%

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.

STEM workers who are immigrants 22.4%
STEM Master's students who are foreign nationals 29.8%
STEM PhD students who are foreign nationals 35.6%


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. Finding enough healthcare workers remains a challenge—and one that will likely worsen in the future. Immigrants, however, are already helping fill gaps in the healthcare workforce.

Open healthcare jobs to unemployed healthcare workers 9.5:1
Doctors who were educated abroad 26.0%
Psychiatrists who were educated abroad 32.5%
Nurses who are foreign-born 15.2%
Health aides who are foreign-born 23.7%


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.

Immigrant homeowners 9,103,507
Share of recent homebuyers who were foreign-born 13.9%
Housing wealth held by immigrant households $3.5T
Amount paid by immigrant-led households in rent $110.6B

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 found that increases in the number of international students at American universities boost innovation and patent creation.

Students at U.S. colleges and universities who are international students 4.9%
Economic contribution of international students $30.7B
Jobs supported by international students 375,946

Voting Power

Nationwide, the power of immigrant voters is likely to continue to be a large factor in upcoming elections. The sheer size of the country's immigrant voting bloc means it has the potential to powerfully impact which way states vote in national and state elections.

Immigrants eligible to vote 20,382,099
Immigrants registered to vote 11,930,641
Immigrants eligible to vote in 2020 21,900,447
2016 presidential election margin of victory 2,868,518

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.

Undocumented immigrants 10,995,164
Share of undocumented immigrants, working age 90.0%
Undocumented Entrepreneurs 778,539
Undocumented Household Income $215.2B
Taxes Paid $25.3B
State & Local Taxes $9.4B
Federal Taxes $15.9B
Total Spending Power $189.8B

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 1,350,554
Share of DACA Eligible Population in Labor Force that is Employed 90.3%
Number of DACA-Eligible Entrepreneurs 37,813
DACA-Eligible Household Income $331.4B
State & Local Taxes $24.1B
Federal Taxes $27.3B
Total Spending Power $280.0B

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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…