Immigrants and the economy in:

West Virginia
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Between 2010 and 2016, West Virginia’s foreign-born population grew by an impressive 33.7 percent; this increase helped West Virginia avoid the type of sharp population decline that has hurt other cities and states in recent years. Immigrants contribute to the state as taxpayers, consumers, and members of the workforce. They also play an especially valuable role as STEM workers, healthcare professionals, and home buyers as the state’s population ages.

  • 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. As West Virginia's slow population growth may potentially deprive businesses of customers and employers of a workforce they can depend on as more baby boomers retire, immigrants are likely to help to address some of these demographic challenges.

Age Group Foreign-Born Population Share Native-Born Population Share
0-15 4.9% 18.3%
16-64 76.6% 63.0%
65+ 18.5% 18.8%


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 West Virginia, like the country as a whole, immigrants are currently punching above their weight class as entrepreneurs.

People employed by immigrant-owned firms 9,863
Immigrant entrepreneurs 1,408
Business income of immigrant-owned firms $45.9M

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

Immigrant Household Income $960.9M
Taxes Paid $263.6M
State & Local Taxes $76.3M
Federal Taxes $187.3M
Total Spending Power $697.3M


Nationally, immigrants are 9.2 percent more likely to hold an advanced degree than the native-born. West Virginia has the widest gap in educational attainment in the country: 21.7% of immigrants have a graduate degree compared to just 7.4% of natives. Immigrants 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 West Virginia, where immigrants play a particularly large role in the manufacturing industry, as wells as in the computer systems design industry.

Educational Attainment by Nativity, Age 25+
Workforce Education Foreign-Born Population Native-Born Population
Less Than High School 13.0% 13.9%
High School & Some College 39.6% 65.6%
Bachelor's Degree 24.9% 12.3%
Graduate Degree 22.4% 8.3%
Top Industries with Highest Share of Foreign-Born Workers
Colleges, universities, and professional schools 10.3%
Hospitals 4.0%
Nursing care facilities (skilled nursing facilities) 3.6%
Outpatient care centers 2.9%
Restaurants and other food services 2.5%
Top Occupations with Highest Share of Foreign-Born Workers
Nursing, psychiatric, and home health aides 12.0%
Elementary and middle school teachers 2.6%
Registered nurses 2.4%
Retail salespersons 2.3%
Secretaries and administrative assistants 2.0%

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 West Virginia remains a leading innovator in STEM fields like natural gas and advanced manufacturing.

STEM workers who are immigrants 6.4%
STEM Master's students who are foreign nationals 8.8%
STEM PhD students who are foreign nationals 30.4%


In the coming years, the American healthcare industry is projected to see incredibly rapid growth—adding more new positions from 2014 to 2024 than any other industry in our economy. In West Virginia, a state where more than one out of every six residents is currently elderly, 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 8:1
Doctors who were educated abroad 27.8%
Psychiatrists who were educated abroad 30.4%
Nurses who are foreign-born 2.0%
Health aides who are foreign-born 4.1%


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

Immigrant homeowners 6,518
Share of recent homebuyers who were foreign-born 1.5%
Housing wealth held by immigrant households $1.6B
Amount paid by immigrant-led households in rent $56.2M

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 West Virginia, but they make a big impact.

Students at West Virginia colleges and universities who are international students 2.8%
Economic contribution of international students $116.2M
Jobs supported by international students 1,071

Voting Power

Nationwide, the power of immigrant voters is likely to continue to be a large factor in upcoming elections. Given their modest numbers, immigrants may not sway presidential elections in West Virginia where Donald Trump won by roughly 300,000 votes in 2016, but their votes may make a difference in closer statewide contests and primaries in the near future.

Immigrants eligible to vote 12,353
Immigrants registered to vote 7,226
Immigrants eligible to vote in 2020 13,861
2016 presidential election margin of victory 300,577

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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…