Immigrants in San Diego Contributed $54 Billion to County GDP in 2016

Nearly a quarter of the county’s population, immigrants held $16.4 billion in spending power and contributed $9.6 billion in taxes in 2016

SAN DIEGO, CA – Immigrants contributed over $54 billion—25 percent—to the San Diego metro area GDP in 2016, according to a new research brief released by New American Economy in partnership with the City of San Diego, the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, and the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation. The report was published at the Welcoming San Diego Kickoff Summit, a convening launching a multi-sector effort to advance the civic, social and economic integration of immigrants and refugees in San Diego.

In addition to their financial contributions, the report shows the critical role the foreign-born population plays in San Diego’s workforce. Immigrants make up a significant portion of several of the area’s most important industries, including science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), agriculture, manufacturing, and construction. Immigrants also account for nearly one-third of all entrepreneurs in the county. The more than 64,000 immigrant entrepreneurs in San Diego generated $1.4 billion in business income in 2016.

These findings will be used as the Welcoming San Diego initiative launches a six-month planning process bringing together local government, business leaders, nonprofits, and educational institutions to develop a strategic plan to ensure that San Diego continues to be a globally fluent community that harnesses the potential of all residents and improves the quality of life in the binational region. San Diego was one of ten communities selected nationally through the Gateways for Growth award to receive research and technical assistance from New American Economy and Welcoming America to support this work.

“The San Diego region has a strong reputation as a welcoming place for immigrants and refugees and their contributions to our culture and economy,” said Mayor Kevin L. Faulconer. “This new program will help ensure that continues by providing support and resources for those who come to our city in search of a better life.”

“Immigrants play a critical role in the strength, diversity, and resiliency of our local workforce,” said Jerry Sanders, San Diego Regional Chamber President and CEO. “This data confirms the contributions of immigrants are a significant economic driver for our region helping our businesses and economy grow and spurring future job creation.”

“Immigration accelerates economic growth, a fact the newest data out of San Diego only reinforces,” said John Feinblatt, President of New American Economy. “A strategic, welcoming immigration policy will mean an even greater boost for the metro area, as San Diego attracts more companies, more entrepreneurs, and more taxpayers in the years ahead.”

The brief, New Americans in San Diego, finds:

  • Foreign-born residents contributed $54.3 billion to the county’s GDP in 2016. Immigrant households also support federal social programs, contributing $2.4 billion to Social Security and $650.7 million to Medicare.
  • Immigrant households earned $25.9 billion in 2016. Foreign-born households also contributed $7.5 billion in federal taxes and $2.1 billion in state and local taxes, including property, sales, and excise taxes.
  • About 64,299 foreign-born people own their own business, generating $1.4 billion in business income. Despite making up 24.1 percent of the overall population, immigrants represented 32.7 percent of entrepreneurs in San Diego County in 2016.
  • Foreign-born workers represented 31.5 percent of the metro area’s STEM workers in 2016. Immigrants also make up 61.6 percent of the workers in agriculture, 39.6 percent of workers in manufacturing, and 33 percent of the area’s construction workers.
  • Immigrants helped to preserve 36,770 local manufacturing jobs in 2016. Because of the role immigrants play in the workforce helping companies keep jobs local, by 2016 immigrants living in the county had helped create or preserve more than 36,000 manufacturing jobs that would have otherwise vanished or moved elsewhere.

Read the full report here.

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