New Data Shows 21.4 Million Eligible Immigrant Voters in the U.S., with Swing States Seeing Increase that Could Tip the Scales in 2020 Elections

Increases in Florida, Michigan, New Hampshire could determine statewide contests

New York New American Economy (NAE), a bipartisan immigration research and advocacy organization, today launched this year’s edition of Map the Impact, an interactive map that quantifies immigrant contributions across the country. This updated report includes the latest data from the 2018 American Communities Survey on immigrants for all 50 states and Washington D.C. Map the Impact provides valuable insights into how immigrants are contributing to the American economy through their tax contributions, consumer spending power, entrepreneurship rates, and more.

But as we head into the 2020 elections, the most significant findings in this year’s Map the Impact show how much immigrants’ electoral power has increased, even over just the last few years. Between 2017 and 2018, the number of immigrants eligible to vote nationwide grew by more than 700,000 people to a total of 21.4 million nationwide. In three swing states—Florida, Michigan, and New Hampshire—the increase in eligible immigrant voters during this time period is larger than the margin of victory in the 2016 presidential election. Immigrants are also becoming an increasingly important force in other swing states such as Arizona and Pennsylvania, where the number of eligible immigrant voters rose by 10.4 percent and 7.9 percent, respectively, from 2017 to 2018.

Other key findings in the new report include:

  • In 2018, there were more than 44.7 million immigrants in the United States. Together, they made up 13.7% of the total U.S. population. 
  • There were more than 3.2 million immigrant entrepreneurs in the United States in 2018. Immigrant-owned businesses employed 8 million Americans in 2016.  
  • Immigrant households nationwide earned $1.6 trillion in 2018 alone. This earning power also allowed them to pay $458.7 billion in federal income, state, and local taxes. Even after paying taxes, immigrant households held $1.2 trillion in spending power. 
  • Immigrants were again more likely to hold an advanced degree than the U.S.-born. Almost 14 percent (13.9 percent) of immigrants had a master’s, professional, or doctorate degree, compared to just 12.4 percent of the U.S.-born. This means that more than one in eight immigrants in the United States had an advanced degree. 

Meanwhile, NAE is releasing a new data interactive highlighting how some states have experienced significant recent changes, such as:  

Population Change

  • Nationwide, the country gained more than 354,000 immigrants between 2017 and 2018, less than half of the increase from the previous year. Despite this slowdown, about one-fourth of total population growth in the United States was due to immigrants from 2017 to 2018.
  • More than half of the states experienced an increase in their immigrant population between 2017 and 2018. For four states, the increase in the immigrant population was enough to reverse population loss completely (Iowa, Massachusetts, Mississippi, and Pennsylvania), and in five others, immigration helped offset or slow population loss (Alaska, Hawaii, Kansas, Louisiana, and Rhode Island).
  • The foreign-born population shrank in 22 states. These included traditional immigrant destinations like New York, which experienced a decrease of 1.5 percent in its immigrant population from 2017 to 2018 amid rising costs of living, among other reasons. 

Brain Gain vs. Brain Drain

  • The growth of college-educated immigrants is outpacing their U.S.-born counterparts. Between 2017 and 2018, the number of college-educated immigrants increased by more than 473,000 people, or 3.8 percent, higher than the growth rate of 2.7 percent for their U.S.-born counterparts.
  • Thirty-two states and D.C. had a brain gain of college-educated immigrants. Mississippi led the pack with a 32 percent increase in college-educated immigrants from 2017 to 2018 alone.
  • Meanwhile, 16 states had a brain drain of college-educated immigrants, with Maine and North Dakota both experiencing a 20 percent drop during this time period, as many skilled workers left for Southern and coastal states seeking better employment opportunities.

Entrepreneurship Rate

  • Immigrants play an outsize role in starting new businesses. Between 2017 and 2018, immigrants made up 47.2 percent of new entrepreneurs in the United States.
  • In 2018, immigrants were most entrepreneurial in Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida, and South Carolina.

You can find the latest version of the Map at

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…