National, State, and Metro Area Data

The estimates that appear on the national, state, and metro area pages were calculated by the New American Economy (NAE) research team using various publicly available datasets. Primary among these are microdata from the American Community Survey (ACS), downloaded from the Integrated Public Use Microdata Series (IPUMS) database. As of January 31, 2020, the data on Map the Impact reflects analysis of the 2018 ACS microdata for national and state pages and analysis of the 2017 ACS microdata for metro area pages.

Except where otherwise noted (e.g., “undocumented immigrant” or “DACA-eligible”), we define an immigrant as anyone born outside the country to non-U.S. citizen parents who is resident in the United States. This includes naturalized citizens, green card holders, temporary visa holders, refugees, asylees, and undocumented immigrants, among others.

For metro areas, we use the U.S. Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) 2015 definitions of metropolitan statistical areas (MSA). The OMB defines a metropolitan statistical area as an area that has at least one city of 50,000 or more residents with surrounding areas that have a “high degree of social and economic integration” with the core city or cities such as commuting ties. MSA are made up of counties or county equivalents (e.g. parishes in Louisiana) and one county cannot be divided between metro areas or metro/non-metro areas. A full list of the MSAs and their component counties can be found here.


Data points on the number, share, and age breakdown of both U.S.- and foreign-born residents are calculated using microdata from the ACS.


The data on the number of self-employed immigrants come from the ACS.

Total sales and the number of employees at immigrant-owned firms are estimated by using the number of immigrant-owned firms from 2016 Annual Survey of Entrepreneurs (ASE), as well as the estimates of average sales and number of employees from a working paper released by the National Bureau of Economic Research. [1] [2]

We define immigrant-owned businesses as firms with at least one foreign-born owner. For confidentiality, the data exclude businesses classified as publicly owned as they can be easily identified in many states. Based on our analysis, we believe that many publicly owned firms excluded from this data are companies with 500 employees or more. As a result, the final number of employees at immigrant-owned companies in this report is a conservative estimate, and is likely lower than the true value.

Fortune ranks U.S. companies by revenue and publishes a list of top 500 companies and their annual revenue as well as their employment level each year. To produce our estimates, we use the 2018 Fortune 500 list. [3] Our estimates in this section build on past work done by NAE examining each Fortune 500 firm in the country in 2011 and determining who founded them. [4] We use publicly available data, including historical U.S. Census records and information obtained directly from the firms, to determine the background of each founder. In the rare cases where we could not determine a founder’s background, we assume that the individual is U.S.-born to be conservative in our estimates. Some firms created through the merger of a large number of smaller companies or public entities are also excluded from our analysis. These included all companies in the utilities sector and several in insurance.

To produce the Fortune 500 estimates for each state, we allocate firms to the states where their current headquarters are located. We then aggregate and report the annual revenue and employment of the firms in each state that we identify as “New American” Fortune 500 companies. These are firms with at least one founder who was an immigrant or the child of immigrants.

Income and Tax Contributions

Consistent with past NAE research, we use the term “spending power.” [5] Here as elsewhere, we define spending power as the disposable income leftover after subtracting federal income, state, and local taxes from total annual household income.

Using the ACS 1-year microdata sample, we estimate the aggregate household income, tax contributions, and spending power of foreign-born households. A household is defined as a foreign-born household if the household head is foreign-born. We estimate state and local taxes using the tax rates estimates produced by Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) by state income quintiles. [6] For federal income tax rate estimates, we use data released by the Congressional Budget Office and calculate federal tax contributions using federal tax bracket determined with adjusted household income. [7]

Cost-Benefit Analysis for States

The analysis is designed to measure major spending programs in state and local budgets. The overall contribution to state and local revenues on behalf of immigrant households is done at the tax level (including income, property, and sales taxes).

The methodology for this cost-benefit analysis is modeled after a study of immigrant contributions in the state of Arkansas. Demographic data for this analysis are from the pooled 5-year national Current Population Survey (CPS) (2011-2015).  The Census of State and Local Government (2014) is used to ascertain the costs and revenues of the major programs described below.[8] Similar to past work, we define spending power as household income minus federal income and state and local taxes. [9]


Using the 2014 ACS 1-year microdata sample, we estimate the aggregate household income, tax contributions, and spending power of foreign-born households. We estimate state and local taxes using the tax rates estimates produced by Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy by state income quintiles. For federal tax rate estimates, we use data released by the Congressional Budget Office in 2014 and calculate the federal tax based on the household income federal tax bracket. 


Education costs are calculated using the Census of Local and State Government. Federal transfers to states are included in the cost-revenue calculations, which also include all costs incurred for K-12 education and any revenues on behalf of state and local governments. Education expenses are allocated to the proportion of foreign-born pupils.

Corrections (Prison)

Costs of corrections are derived from Census of Local and State Government. Data on prison population are from the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS). [10] BJS data is broken down by race and ethnicity per state.  This breakdown is allocated to the foreign-born population in the state and used in the calculating the prison population. An assumption is made that the foreign-born population does not differ from the U.S.-born population in rates of incarceration. In other words, foreign-born whites are incarcerated at the same rate as U.S.-born whites.

Police Protection

Costs of police protection are derived from Census of Local and State Government. Data Police protection costs are allocated as corresponding percentage of foreign-born population per state. Costs are allocated equally for police protection. Judicial and legal services costs incurred by the state are included under police protection. These costs are derived Census of Local and State Government.


Data on health expenditures are comprised of the costs of healthcare incurred by the state minus any revenues received.  The allocation of health care costs to the foreign born is calculated using the 2014 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey dataset. The MEPS data allow for a breakdown of uninsured or public insured persons per region (South, West, Northeast, Midwest) as well as nativity status. The regional proportion of those uninsured or on public insurance are allocated to each corresponding state in the four regions. For example, 36 percent of foreign-born living in the Northeast region were uninsured or on public insurance.  We apply this number to the foreign-born population in a Massachusetts (Northeast regional state) and calculate the allocation of health expenditures that corresponds to the proportion of foreign-born residents in the state.

Household Multiplier

The RIMS II value added multiplier is used to calculate the increased value to total state output from the contribution of foreign-born households. For example, we rely on a multiplier produced by the Bureau of Economic Analysis that approximates how each dollar earned by foreign-born households in California results in additional (.74) total state economic output.  We apply an average state tax rate to this additional economic output (state GDP), and calculate the added effect of foreign-born earnings on state revenues. This technique is widely used by state and local government practitioners to evaluate indirect effect of household earnings and industry output. [11]


Educational attainment figures for the U.S.- and foreign-born ages 25 and up are calculated using microdata from the ACS. Using the age threshold of 25 allows us to examine the segment of the population most likely to have already completed their final level of educational attainment.

For states, we use the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS), to classify and estimate the industries with the largest share of foreign-born workers. All individuals 16 years old and above are included in these calculations. We exclude industries with small sample sizes of workers to avoid reporting estimates with large margins of error. Estimated occupations with the largest share of foreign-born workers per state also follow the same restrictions—the universe is restricted to workers age 16 and above, and the occupations that fall under minimum threshold excluded.

For metro areas, we use broad categories of industries—sometimes called the “2-digit” NAICS codes, to determine which industry groups have the highest share of immigrant workers. Again, similar to states, we drop particularly small industry groups as to avoid giving estimates for industries with small sample sizes and inaccurate results.


We use the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) occupation list released by U.S. Census Bureau to determine the number and share of foreign-born STEM workers as well as the number of unemployed STEM workers from the ACS 1-year data. [12] Per U.S. Census classification, healthcare workers such as physicians and dentists are not counted as working in the STEM occupations. All unemployed workers who list their previous job as a STEM occupation are counted as unemployed STEM workers. The data on STEM graduates are from the 2015 Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) completion survey. [13]


Due to small sample sizes in the 1-year ACS sample, we estimate the average number of unemployed healthcare workers by stacking and reweighting the 2014, 2015, and 2016 ACS 1-year data. Appending three years of data ensures that our sample is large enough to make reliable estimates. Healthcare workers are healthcare practitioners and technical occupations, or healthcare support occupations as defined by U.S. Census Bureau. [14] Unemployed healthcare workers are individuals who report their previous job as a healthcare occupation, and their employment status as currently not working but looking for work. We take the average number of job postings for healthcare workers between 2015 and 2017 from the Burning Glass Labor Insight tool, a database that scours online sources and identifies the number and types of job postings. [15]

We then delve into specific occupations within the broader healthcare industry. To produce the figures on the total number of physicians and psychiatrists and the share educated abroad as of 2016, we use the American Medical Association (AMA) Physician Masterfile data.

For the share of foreign-born nurses and home health aides, we again use a constructed sample of 2016-2018 ACS due to small sample sizes in the 1-year sample.


The data in the housing section comes from the ACS 1-year sample. Immigrant homeowners are defined as foreign-born householders who reported living in their own home. We estimate the amount of housing wealth held by immigrant households by aggregating the total housing value of homes owned by immigrant–led households. We also estimate the amount of rent paid by immigrant-led households by aggregating the rent paid by such families. We then calculate the share of housing wealth and rent that immigrant households held or paid compared to the total population. For characteristics of homeowners, a foreign-born new homebuyer is defined as a household with a foreign-born household head who owned and moved to the current residence within the last five years.

International Students

We obtain the size and share of postsecondary students who are international in each state from the 2018 Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) fall enrollment data. Those figures are then applied to preexisting work previously done by NAFSA, an organization representing professionals employed in the international offices of colleges and universities across the United States. NAFSA has developed an economic value tool and methodology that estimates the total economic benefit and jobs created or supported by international students and their dependents in each state. [16] The economic contributions include the costs of higher education along with living expenses minus U.S.-based financial support that international students receive.

Because the enrollment data from IPEDS that we use is different from the underlying data used by NAFSA, our figures differ slightly from the NAFSA estimates of the economic contributions made by international students in the 2018-2019 school year.


The estimates for registration rates for foreign-born population are calculated from the Voter Supplement in the Current Population Survey (CPS) for the years 2010, 2012, 2014, and 2016 using the IPUMS database. The sample in CPS includes only civilian non-institutional persons.

Using data from the ACS 1-year sample, we estimate the number and share of foreign-born eligible voters. We define them as naturalized citizens aged 18 or older who live in housing units. Persons living in institutional group quarters such as correctional facilities are excluded from the estimation. We then calculate the numbers of registered foreign-born voters by applying the registration rates obtained from CPS to the number of eligible immigrant voters state by state.

We also estimate the number of new foreign-born voters who will become eligible to vote in 2020, either by turning 18 or through naturalization, as well as the total number of foreign-born voters in these years. The estimates of newly eligible voters for 2020 include all naturalized citizens ages 14-17 in 2016 (thereby becoming of voting age by 2020). Applicable mortality rates are also applied. [17] In addition, we estimate newly naturalized citizens using data from the Department of Homeland Security, which show the two-year average of new naturalized citizens by state. [18] We discount from these numbers the percentage of children below 18 in households with a naturalized householder by state. Estimates of total eligible foreign-born voters include naturalized citizens aged 18 or older in 2016, discounted by average U.S. mortality rates by age brackets, summed to the pool of newly eligible foreign-born voters.

Margin of victory in 2016 refers to the margin of victory of either Donald Trump or Hilary Clinton in terms of popular vote in each state for the 2016 presidential election. [19]

Undocumented Immigrants

Using data from the ACS, we apply the methodological approach outlined by Harvard University economist George Borjas to arrive at an estimate of the undocumented immigrant population in the overall United States and individual states. [20] The foreign-born population is adjusted for misreporting in two ways. Foreign-born individuals who reported naturalization are reclassified as non-naturalized if the individual had resided in the United States for less than six years (as of 2018) or, if married to a U.S. citizen, for less than three years. We use the following criteria to code foreign-born individuals as legal U.S. residents:

  • Arrived in the U.S. before 1980
  • Citizens and children less than 18 years old reporting that at least one U.S.-born parent
  • Recipients of Social Security benefits, Supplemental Security Income, Medicaid, Medicare, military insurance, or public assistance
  • Households with at least one citizen that received SNAP benefits
  • People in the Armed Forces and veterans
  • Refugees
  • Working in occupations requiring a license
  • Working in occupations that immigrants are likely to be on H-1B or other visas, including computer scientists, professors, engineers, and life scientists
  • Government employees, and people working in the public administration sector
  • Any of the above conditions applies to the householder’s spouse

The remainder of the foreign-born population that do not meet these criteria are reclassified as undocumented. Estimates regarding the economic contribution of undocumented immigrants and the role they play in various industries are made using the same methods used to capture this information for the broader immigrant population in the broader brief.

When estimating the tax contributions of undocumented immigrants, we follow the methodology detailed by ITEP and discount the total amount by half, considering the fact that about 50 percent of undocumented immigrants pay taxes using false Social Security or Individual Tax Identification numbers.

DACA-Eligible Population

The data used to generate estimates come from the ACS. Due to small sample sizes, we pool 1-year ACS data from 2016, 2017, and 2018 and use the average weight of three years to arrive at our final estimates.

As DACA recipients are legally allowed to work in certain occupations that undocumented immigrants cannot work in, we adjust our methodology to reflect such differences between undocumented immigrants and the DACA-eligible population.

Since DACA-eligible population is a subset of the total undocumented population, we apply the guidelines for DACA from United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to ACS microdata to restrict our data further. We determine an undocumented person to be DACA-eligible if the individual:

  • Was born after the second quarter of 1981;
  • Came to the United States before reaching his or her 16th birthday; and
  • Has moved to the United States by 2007.

While USCIS guidelines for DACA application also include restrictions on those who have criminal records, it is not possible to determine such information from the U.S. Census. We believe then, that our final numbers of the DACA-eligible population are the most reliable estimates that one can extrapolate from the U.S Census microdata.

Unlike past NAE papers on income and tax contributions, this brief treats each DACA-eligible individual as a single taxpaying unit. This follows the lead of other groups, such as the nonpartisan Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP), that have also sought to quantify the economic and tax contributions of this population. [21]

Similar to NAE’s other work on the economic contributions of immigrants overall, we estimate state and local taxes using the tax incidence estimates produced by ITEP. For federal tax rate estimates, we use data released by the Congressional Budget Office and calculate the federal tax contributions based on the CBO estimates for household federal tax incidence rates by income quintile.

Temporary Protected Status Holders

We use pooled 1-year ACS data from 2014 to 2018 to conduct the analysis. We pool this data in order to generate a large enough sample of people to allow us to make accurate estimates about the TPS population.

To identify potential TPS holders, we follow the eligibility requirements from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). As of March 2019, there are ten designated countries for TPS: El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. After identifying the countries of origin for these individuals in the survey, we then use year of entry to determine whether they meet the requirement for continuous residence regulated by USCIS.

Similar to a paper by Center for Migration Studies (CMS) published in the Journal on Migration and Human Security, we include TPS holders in the estimates of undocumented immigrants though their status is comparable to other legally present non-citizens.

We use the same methodology to determine whether an individual is undocumented along with the TPS eligibility criteria described above to determine whether an individual is a potential TPS holder.

To estimate the total TPS-holding population, we apply weighting adjustments to estimates from the ACS. First, we calculate the ratio of TPS holders using the data from CMS mentioned above to total potential TPS holders, taken from the ACS for each of the ten TPS designed countries. We use the CMS estimates for TPS holders by country of origin as the CMS data is more accurate given that the data source for their report comes directly from the Congressional Research Service and thus indirectly from USCIS. We then apply these ratios as weights to adjust for our final TPS population estimates.

Similar to NAE’s other work on the economic contributions of immigrants overall, we estimate state and local taxes using the tax incidence estimates produced by ITEP. For federal tax rate estimates, we use data released by the Congressional Budget Office and calculate the federal tax contributions based on the CBO estimates for household federal tax incidence rates by income quintile.

Great Lakes Metro Areas

For certain metro areas (listed below), we include the data points on population change, homeownership, entrepreneurship, manufacturing jobs, healthcare jobs, and STEM graduates. These data points come from NAE’s report “New Americans and a New Direction: The Role of Immigrants in Reviving the Great Lakes Region.” These indicators reflect data analysis from the 2000 U.S. Census, the 2010 American Community Survey, and the 2015 American Community Survey.

  • Akron
  • Albany
  • Allentown
  • Buffalo
  • Chicago
  • Cincinnati
  • Cleveland
  • Columbus
  • Dayton
  • Detroit
  • Grand Rapids
  • Harrisburg
  • Indianapolis
  • Louisville
  • Madison
  • Milwaukee
  • Twin Cities
  • Philadelphia
  • Pittsburgh
  • Rochester
  • Scranton
  • St. Louis
  • Syracuse
  • Toledo

Congressional Districts

Due to the irregular nature of U.S. congressional districts, analysis of each district was not possible using microdata from the 2017 5-Year American Community Survey. Instead, we use estimates for hundreds of demographic and socioeconomic indicators published by the U.S. Census Bureau on the American FactFinder data portal. Using these estimates, we calculate all of the demographic and socioeconomic characteristics of each congressional district’s U.S.-born and immigrant population as listed on each district page. Income, tax, and spending power figures were calculated using average household income estimates from American FactFinder and then weighted by congressional district to equal the total income, tax, and spending power figures calculated from microdata for each state. For Districts-At-Large, state data on household income, taxes, and spending power are used instead since the geographies are coterminous.


  1. U.S. Census Bureau, Survey of Business Owners and Self-Employed Persons Datasets. Available online.
  2. Sari Pekkala Kerr, William R. Kerr, “Immigrant Entrepreneurship in America: Evidence from the Survey of Business Owners 2007 & 2012,” NBER Working Paper (National Bureau of Economic Research). Available online.
  3. “Fortune 500,” Fortune, 2018. Available online.
  4. “New American Fortune 500 in 2018: The Entrepreneurial Legacy of Immigrants and Their Children,” Partnership for a New American Economy, 2018. Available online.
  5. “Power of Purse: How Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders Contribute to the U.S. Economy,” New American Economy, 2017. Available online.
  6. “Who Pays? A Distributional Analysis of the Tax Systems in All 50 States (5th edition),” Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, 2015. Available online.
  7. “The Distribution of Household Income and Federal Taxes, 2013”, Congressional Budget Office, Washington, D.C., 2016. Available online.
  8. This is the latest year available for the census of state and local government. BLS confirms zero inflation, so we can expect the figures to have remained more or less stable in 2015.
  9. The Power of the Purse: The Contribution of Hispanics to America’s Spending Power and Tax Revenues in 2013,” Partnership for a New American Economy, 2014. Available online.
  10. U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, “Prisoners in 2014”, E. Ann Carson September 2015, NCJ 248955
  11. See: Bess, R., & Ambargis, Z. O. (2011, March). Input-Output models for impact analysis: suggestions for practitioners using RIMS II multipliers. In 50th Southern Regional Science Association Conference (pp. 23-27). Morgantown, WV: Southern Regional Science Association.;Lynch, T. (2000), “Analyzing the economic impact of transportation projects using RIMS II, IMPLAN and REMI”, prepared for Office of Research and Special Programs, US Department of Transportation, Washington, DC.;Rickman, D.S. and Schwer, R.K. (1995), “A comparison of the multipliers of IMPLAN, REMI, and RIMS II: benchmarking ready-made models for comparison”, Annual Regional Science , Vol. 29, pp. 363-374.
  12. U.S. Census Bureau, “STEM, STEM-related, and Non-STEM Occupation Code List 2010,” 2010. Available online.
  13. National Center for Education Statistics, “Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System.” Available online.
  14. U.S. Census Bureau, “2010 Occupation Code List.” Available online.
  15. S. Department of Commerce, “Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by State,” accessed July 2, 2016. Available online.
  16. NAFSA, “International Student Economic Value Tool,” Available online.
  17. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “National Vital Statistics Reports, Deaths: Final Data for 2014,” 2016. Available online.
  18. Department of Homeland Security, “Yearbook of Immigration Statistics: 2015 Naturalizations, Table 22 – Persons Naturalized by State or Territory of Residence: FY 2013 to 2015.” Available online.
  19. “Presidential Election Results: Donald J. Trump Wins,” The New York Times, August 9, 2017, sec. U.S. Available online.
  20. George J. Borjas, “The Labor Supply of Undocumented Immigrants,” NBER Working Paper (National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, 2016). Available online.
  21. Misha E. Hill and Meg Wiehe. 2017. “State and Local Tax Contributions of Young Undocumented Immigrants.” Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. Available online.

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…