How much do immigrants matter in Texas? They drive a lot of growth

Mitchell Schnurman, The Dallas Morning News

Some readers questioned whether immigration is a big force in the economy, an underlying assertion in my column today. I suggested that lawmakers put more effort into helping foreign workers come here legally, because we need them. One example: Farmers in North Carolina had 6,500 jobs to fill and only seven native workers lasted the growing season.

Here are a few more data points on immigrants’ influence. In Texas, they accounted for about 16 percent of the population in 2011, yet they started 31 percent of new businesses. That’s a higher startup rate than the national average, according to the Partnership for a New American Economy.

Nationwide, immigrants created an outsized share of companies in construction, transportation, trade and health care. They also started a quarter of the companies in professional and business services, the group said.

In Texas, immigrants added almost 1 million people to the state population from 2000 to 2009, according to Steve Murdock, a Rice University professor and former state demographer. They accounted for 24 percent of Texas’ population growth and almost 10 percent of the total immigration increase in the United States. Murdock also said that immigrants accounted for one-half of the growth in the labor force.

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