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Immigrants and the economy in:

New Jersey

More than 22 percent of New Jersey’s population is foreign-born; in only two other states, California and New York, is a higher proportion of the population made up of immigrants. Today, 2 million New Jersey residents were born abroad, the fifth largest immigrant population in the country. They serve as everything from home health aides to computer programmers, helping iconic industries in the state continue to thrive

  • 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 New Jersey, 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 4.0% 24.0%
16-64 80.1% 60.7%
65+ 15.9% 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. In New Jersey, like the country as a whole, immigrants are currently punching far above their weight class as entrepreneurs. Foreign-born workers currently make up one in three entrepreneurs in the state, despite accounting for 22.4 percent of New Jersey’s population.

People employed by immigrant-owned firms 270,431
Immigrant entrepreneurs 124,631
Business income of immigrant-owned firms $2.8B
Fortune 500 companies in New Jersey founded by immigrants or their children 42.1%

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

Immigrant Household Income $82.3B
Taxes Paid $23.6B
State & Local Taxes $7.1B
Federal Taxes $16.5B
Total Spending Power $58.7B


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 New Jersey, where immigrants play a particularly large role as taxi drivers, software developers, and personal care aides.

Educational Attainment by Nativity, Age 25+
Workforce Education Foreign-Born Population Native-Born Population
Less Than High School 19.4% 7.4%
High School & Some College 42.2% 53.8%
Bachelor's Degree 21.5% 24.4%
Graduate Degree 16.9% 14.4%
Top Industries with Highest Share of Foreign-Born Workers
Private households 74.8%
Taxi and limousine service 66.4%
Services to buildings and dwellings 58.1%
Warehousing and storage 53.8%
Not specified manufacturing industries 51.0%
Top Occupations with Highest Share of Foreign-Born Workers
Maids and housekeeping cleaners 71.3%
Packers and packagers 65.4%
Software developers, applications and systems software 63.9%
Taxi drivers and chauffeurs 63.5%
Computer programmers 62.3%

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 New Jersey remains a leading innovator in industries like information technology and pharmaceuticals.

STEM workers who are immigrants 41.6%
STEM Master's students who are foreign nationals 38.4%
STEM PhD students who are foreign nationals 40.6%


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. In New Jersey, a state where nearly 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 39.5%
Psychiatrists who were educated abroad 52.8%
Nurses who are foreign-born 31.2%
Health aides who are foreign-born 48.4%


In 2014, the agriculture industry contributed $809 million to New Jersey’s gross domestic product. It also provided jobs to more than 10,000 New Jerseyans. Within that large industry, fresh fruits and vegetables played a prominent role. In 2014, farmers in the state grew nearly $311 million worth of fresh fruits, vegetables, and tree nuts. And the state ranked among the top 10 states in the country in terms of the amount of fresh fruit it exported that year.

Share of fresh fruit and vegetable farms 44.5%
Share of misc. agriculture workers, foreign-born 48.4%
Share of all agriculture workers, foreign-born 28.9%
Amount that agriculture directly contributes to New Jersey's economy $809.0M


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

Immigrant homeowners 417,409
Share of recent homebuyers who were foreign-born 26.4%
Housing wealth held by immigrant households $175.5B
Amount paid by immigrant-led households in rent $6.0B

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 New Jersey, but they make a big impact.

Students at New Jersey colleges and universities who are international students 5.0%
Economic contribution of international students $644.7M
Jobs supported by international students 8,595

Voting Power

In 2016, New Jersey was home to more than 1 million foreign-born residents who were eligible to vote—a group that made up more than one in five of the state’s eligible voters. An estimated almost 652,000 foreign-born New Jerseyans had also taken the step of formally registering. Although few would call New Jersey a swing state, the sheer size of the immigrant voting bloc here means it has a powerful impact on the way the state votes in both national and state elections.

Immigrants eligible to vote 1,066,482
Immigrants registered to vote 651,940
Immigrants eligible to vote in 2020 1,136,284
2016 presidential election margin of victory 546,345

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

Undocumented immigrants 509,938
Share of undocumented immigrants, working age 89.5%
Undocumented Entrepreneurs 27,001
Undocumented Household Income $11.9B
Taxes Paid $1.5B
State & Local Taxes $528.5M
Federal Taxes $1.0B
Total Spending Power $10.4B

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 53,780
Share of DACA Eligible Population in Labor Force that is Employed 89.6%
DACA-Eligible Household Income $811.9M
State & Local Taxes $64.9M
Federal Taxes $67.3M
Total Spending Power $679.7M

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 51,360
State's Share of all Likely Refugees 2.2%
Share of Overall State Population, Refugee 0.6%
Taxes & Spending Power
Refugee Household Income $2.5B
Taxes Paid $713.7M
State & Local Taxes $213.0M
Federal Taxes $500.7M
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…