North Carolina’s immigrant populace emphasizes the financial power of non-native residents via their vital contributions to the state’s economy, according to a report commissioned by the North Carolina Justice Center.
The immigrant population of North Carolina quintupled from 1990 to 2013, and those numbers mimicked growth on the national level. In 2013, approximately 41.3 million immigrants lived in the United States, an all-time high for a nation historically built on immigration. In North Carolina, the cities Greensboro/Winston-Salem, Raleigh-Durham and Charlotte, in particular, witnessed tremendous immigrant population growth; yet, state-wide the economic activity of immigrants stimulated local prosperity for two decades. The report, titled “Smart Choices in an Era of Migration,” highlights the economic importance of the state’s immigrant population.
Both urban areas and rural communities benefit from the presence of foreign-born individuals. The report states that on average, counties with large immigrant populations tend to have lower unemployment rates and levels of poverty. Also, they tend to have higher wages.
According to the report’s author, Patrick McHugh, immigrants flock to North Carolina because of the enormous opportunities, which include “main street businesses,” revitalized neighborhoods and an increasingly global marketplace. Immigrants now comprise 20 percent of ‘main street business’ owners and immigrants account for more than 80 percent of the new Main Street business owners since 2000.
Immigrants have integrated into the state’s labor force, particularly in the areas of technical services, agriculture, construction, retail trade, manufacturing, education, banking and health care. Their economic input far exceeds their share of the population.