Round III of the Gateways for Growth Challenge is Now Open!
Learn More

Immigrants and the economy in:

South Dakota
Choose a District

While today only 3.5 percent of South Dakota’s residents are foreign-born, the state has begun attracting more immigrants in recent years. Many employers, particularly those in fields such as steel production and advanced manufacturing, are experiencing major workforce shortages in technical fields; the more than 30,000 immigrants in South Dakota are already playing a vital role in filling workforce gaps. These new Americans serve as everything from meatpackers to college professors, making them critical contributions to the state’s overall economic success.

  • 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 South Dakota, 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 13.9% 22.7%
16-64 82.4% 60.9%
65+ 3.7% 16.4%


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. South Dakota is currently home to almost 300 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 11,757
Immigrant entrepreneurs 302

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

Immigrant Household Income $635.6M
Taxes Paid $144.7M
State & Local Taxes $42.9M
Federal Taxes $101.8M
Total Spending Power $490.9M


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 South Dakota, where immigrants play a particularly large role as butchers, truck operators, and postsecondary teachers.

Educational Attainment by Nativity, Age 25+
Workforce Education Foreign-Born Population Native-Born Population
Less Than High School 37.0% 7.5%
High School & Some College 35.5% 62.8%
Bachelor's Degree 15.4% 20.6%
Graduate Degree 12.1% 9.1%
Top Industries with Highest Share of Foreign-Born Workers
Nursing care facilities (skilled nursing facilities) 5.6%
Animal production and aquaculture 5.4%
Construction 4.3%
Hospitals 4.1%
Restaurants and other food services 2.9%
Top Occupations with Highest Share of Foreign-Born Workers
Registered nurses 1.7%
Secretaries and administrative assistants 1.5%
Driver/sales workers and truck drivers 0.9%
Farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers 0.6%

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 South Dakota remains a leading innovator in industries like precision manufacturing and electronics.

STEM workers who are immigrants 2.9%
STEM Master's students who are foreign nationals 24.1%
STEM PhD students who are foreign nationals 52.9%


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 South Dakota, 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 68:1
Doctors who were educated abroad 17.4%
Psychiatrists who were educated abroad 28.3%
Nurses who are foreign-born 0.8%
Health aides who are foreign-born 4.2%


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

Immigrant homeowners 2,976
Share of recent homebuyers who were foreign-born 2.2%
Housing wealth held by immigrant households $483.6M
Amount paid by immigrant-led households in rent $51.1M

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 South Dakota, but they make a big impact.

Students at South Dakota colleges and universities who are international students 3.3%
Economic contribution of international students $35.0M
Jobs supported by international students 274

Voting Power

In 2016, South Dakota was home to almost 8,000 foreign-born residents who were eligible to vote, including an estimated 3,300 foreign-born residents who had formally registered. Those numbers are unlikely to sway a presidential election in this relatively safe Republican state, where Republican Donald Trump won by roughly 110,000 votes in 2016. Still, it can make a difference in closer statewide contests and primaries.

Immigrants eligible to vote 7,960
Immigrants registered to vote 3,385
Immigrants eligible to vote in 2020 10,353
2016 presidential election margin of victory 110,263

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 4,321
State's Share of all Likely Refugees 0.2%
Share of Overall State Population, Refugee 0.5%
Taxes & Spending Power
Refugee Household Income $66.2M
Taxes Paid $13.6M
State & Local Taxes $4.8M
Federal Taxes $8.8M
Refugee Spending Power $52.6M

View All States & Districts

Explore Key Issues in: South Dakota

10 Results

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…