Immigrants and the economy in:

New York

Today, New York is home to more than 4.5 million immigrants, the third largest number of foreign-born residents in the country, surpassed only by California and Texas. New York’s large immigrant community and its historical ties to America’s immigration history are just two reasons why the Empire State is known as a place where people from all over the world come to build new lives and grab a piece of the American Dream.

  • 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 York, 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 4.1% 23.1%
16-64 77.9% 62.4%
65+ 18.0% 14.5%


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. In New York, 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 23 percent of New York’s population.

People employed by immigrant-owned firms 496,928
Immigrant entrepreneurs 299,971
Business income of immigrant-owned firms $6.9B
Fortune 500 companies in New York founded by immigrants or their children 54.5%

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

Immigrant Household Income $160.1B
Taxes Paid $48.9B
State & Local Taxes $17.4B
Federal Taxes $31.5B
Total Spending Power $111.2B


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 York, where immigrants play a particularly large role as taxi drivers, chefs, and nursing aides.

Educational Attainment by Nativity, Age 25+
Workforce Education Foreign-Born Population Native-Born Population
Less Than High School 25.0% 9.0%
High School & Some College 44.5% 53.2%
Bachelor's Degree 17.7% 21.2%
Graduate Degree 12.8% 16.7%
Top Industries with Highest Share of Foreign-Born Workers
Taxi and limousine service 80.4%
Private households 70.1%
Home health care services 65.8%
Drycleaning and laundry services 65.6%
Cut and sew apparel 64.7%
Top Occupations with Highest Share of Foreign-Born Workers
Sewing machine operators 78.4%
Taxi drivers and chauffeurs 76.6%
Maids and housekeeping cleaners 69.0%
Miscellaneous personal appearance workers 67.3%
Nursing, psychiatric, and home health aides 62.1%

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 New York remains a leading innovator in industries like healthcare and biotechnology.

STEM workers who are immigrants 25.9%
STEM Master's students who are foreign nationals 42.6%
STEM PhD students who are foreign nationals 40.2%


Only two other states have a higher share of foreign-educated physicians than New York. Immigrants are already playing a valuable role helping New York meet some of its healthcare workforce gaps. In 2016 more than one in three physicians in New York graduated from a foreign medical school, a likely sign they were born elsewhere. Only two other states in the country have a higher share of foreign-educated physicians.

Open healthcare jobs to unemployed healthcare workers 5:1
Doctors who were educated abroad 36.9%
Psychiatrists who were educated abroad 43.0%
Nurses who are foreign-born 28.9%
Health aides who are foreign-born 60.1%


In 2014, the agriculture industry contributed $3.5 billion to New York’s GDP. It also provided jobs to almost 50,000 New Yorkers. Within that large industry, fresh fruits and vegetables played a prominent role. In 2014, 55.5 percent of farms in New York grew fresh fruits and vegetables, a far higher share than the 33.4 percent that did nationally. New York, home to the "Big Apple," also grew more apples, as measured in farm receipts, than any state in the country that year, except Washington.

Share of fresh fruit and vegetable farms 55.5%
Share of misc. agriculture workers, foreign-born 22.9%
Share of all agriculture workers, foreign-born 11.0%
Amount that agriculture directly contributed to New York's economy $3.5B


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

Immigrant homeowners 729,094
Share of recent homebuyers who were foreign-born 20.4%
Housing wealth held by immigrant households $426.3B
Amount paid by immigrant-led households in rent $17.2B

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 York, but they make a big impact.

Students at New York colleges and universities who are international students 8.1%
Economic contribution of international students $3.6B
Jobs supported by international students 43,007

Voting Power

In 2016, New York was home to more than 2.4 million foreign-born residents who were eligible to vote—a group that made up more than one in 5 of the state’s eligible voters. An estimated 1.3 million foreign-born New Yorkers had also taken the step of formally registering. Although few would call New York a swing state, the sheer size of the immigrant voting population here means it has a powerful impact on the way the state votes in both national and state elections.

Immigrants eligible to vote 2,422,026
Immigrants registered to vote 1,357,144
Immigrants eligible to vote in 2020 2,592,988
2016 presidential election margin of victory 1,736,585

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 York, where undocumented immigrants contribute billions of dollars in taxes each year.

Undocumented immigrants 843,760
Share of undocumented immigrants, working age 91.7%
Undocumented Entrepreneurs 66,063
Undocumented Household Income $20.6B
Taxes Paid $3.0B
State & Local Taxes $1.1B
Federal Taxes $1.9B
Total Spending Power $17.6B

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 85,699
Share of DACA Eligible Population in Labor Force that is Employed 91.1%
Number of DACA-Eligible Entrepreneurs 3,225
DACA-Eligible Household Income $1.7B
State & Local Taxes $158.2M
Federal Taxes $153.5M
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 139,529
State's Share of all Likely Refugees 6.1%
Share of Overall State Population, Refugee 0.7%
Taxes & Spending Power
Refugee Household Income $5.8B
Taxes Paid $1.8B
State & Local Taxes $625.4M
Federal Taxes $1.2B
Refugee Spending Power $4.0B

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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…