Immigrants Accounted for One-Third of Chicago’s Entrepreneurs in 2016

The city’s nearly 40,000 immigrant-owned businesses generated $659 million in income

CHICAGO, IL – Immigrants represented 36 percent of Chicago’s entrepreneurs and generated $659 million in business income in 2016, according to a new report by New American Economy (NAE), produced in partnership with the Chicago Mayor’s Office of New Americans. The report also shows that immigrants also held nearly a quarter of the spending power among the city’s residents, earned nearly $17 billion in household income, and paid $6 billion in taxes in 2016. The report was released at a press conference with Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

In addition to their financial contributions, the report shows the foreign-born population’s role as contributors to the workforce in Chicago. Although foreign-born residents made up 20.7 percent of the city’s overall population in 2016, they represented 24.3 percent of its working-age population, 25.5 percent of its employed labor force, and 26.9 percent of its STEM workers. Immigrants in Chicago are also putting down roots in the US. Nearly half of all immigrants in Chicago were naturalized citizens in 2016.

See the full report here.

“People from all over the world proudly call Chicago home, and this report reinforces what we already know: that immigrants make our city stronger, more vibrant, and more successful,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “We will continue to welcome anyone who wants to work hard and contribute to the well-being of our diverse communities.”

Chicago recognizes the importance of its immigrant residents, as evidenced by the city’s impressive score in the NAE Cities Index, the first comprehensive, national assessment of immigrant integration outcomes in 100 of the largest U.S. cities. Chicago scored 8th out of all 100 cities surveyed and earned distinction on Government Leadership, Legal Support, Economic Empowerment, and more. More than twenty mayors and city leaders joined New American Economy to release the Index on Citizenship Day. To view the complete NAE Cities Index, visit

“Immigration has always been critical to the success of America’s great cities, and this new data out of Chicago underscores that fact,” said Rich André, Associate Director of State and Local Initiatives at New American Economy. “The numbers show that across Chicago, immigrants are creating jobs, bolstering the tax base, and putting down roots. Chicago’s strong performance in the NAE Cities Index is evidence that the city recognizes this, and is committed to including immigrants in the economic and civic fabric of the city to the benefit of all its residents.”

The brief, New Americans in Chicago, finds:

  • Immigrants play an outsize role as entrepreneurs in the city. Despite making up 20.7 percent of the overall population, immigrant represented 36.4 percent of Chicago’s entrepreneurs. They own more than 39,000 businesses in the city that generated $659.2 million in income in 2016. Immigrants were also 67.4 percent more likely to be entrepreneurs than their U.S.-born counterparts.
  • Immigrants households earned $16.9 billion in 2016. They also held $10.9 billion in spending power. This means that foreign-born households held 22.4 percent of all spending power in Chicago, more than their share of the city’s population.
  • Given their income, immigrants contributed significantly to federal, state, and local taxes. Immigrants paid $4.4 billion in federal taxes and $1.6 billion in state and local taxes in 2016.
  • Despite making up just 20.7 percent of the overall population in the city, immigrants played an outsize role in the labor force in 2016. Foreign-born workers represented 24.3 percent of the working-age population, 5 percent of its employed labor force, and 26.9 percent of all workers in STEM fields in Chicago.
  • Immigrants play a critical role in several key industries in the city. Though they are 20.7 percent of the population, foreign-born workers made up 48.0 percent of all workers in the manufacturing industry and 34.9 percent of workers in the accommodation and recreation industry.
  • Nearly half of immigrants and refugees in Chicago—or more than 248,678 individuals—were naturalized citizens in 2016. 4 percent of the non-citizen population were likely eligible to naturalize.

Chicago is one of 44 communities selected for the Gateways for Growth Challenge, a competitive opportunity from New American Economy and Welcoming America where local communities receive tailored research on the contributions of immigrants, direct technical assistance to develop multi-sector plans for welcoming and integrating immigrants, or matching grants.

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…