New ranking of top 100 cities shows Midwestern cities are becoming more welcoming to immigrants

Chicago leads New American Economy’s second annual Cities Index, an interactive tool that measures how effectively cities are integrating immigrants

New York, NY – Today, New American Economy released the 2019 Cities Index, a national ranking of the top 100 cities on how effectively they are integrating immigrants. This year, Chicago, IL ranks No. 1, followed by Chula Vista, CA, Jersey City, NJ, and San Francisco, CA. The 2019 Index also shows that Midwestern cities are making the biggest strides — with Cleveland, OH, Milwaukee, WI, and Toledo, OH among the top ten cities whose scores improved the most since last year’s Cities Index was released. 

The NAE Cities Index is the first and only comprehensive, national assessment of how well the 100 largest cities are integrating immigrants. It measures integration by studying local immigration policies as well as the socioeconomic outcomes of the local immigrant population to see how they compare to their U.S.-born neighbors. Policy factors include, but are not limited to, language access policies and support for immigrant entrepreneurs, and socioeconomic outcomes include employment and homeownership rates, among others. A total of 51 factors determine how well cities are creating environments that help immigrants and communities overall succeed.

“The Cities Index is a powerful tool that gives cities new insights into how they can more effectively address the needs of immigrants and build a stronger economic backbone for their whole community,” said Kate Brick, Director of State and Local Initiatives, New American Economy. “This year’s results were exciting — Midwestern cities are becoming leaders in adopting a welcoming approach to immigration and they are reaping countless benefits from this strategy.”

The top 24 cities, in terms of ranking, in the 2019 edition of the NAE Cities Index are: 

Chicago, IL

Chula Vista, CA

Jersey City, NJ

San Francisco, CA

Baltimore, MD

New York, NY

Anaheim, CA / Newark, NJ / San Jose, CA (tied)

Los Angeles, CA / Portland, OR (tied)

Philadelphia, PA

Washington, D.C.

Cleveland, OH

Cincinnati, OH / Greensboro, NC / San Diego, CA (tied)

Seattle, WA

Detroit, MI

Fremont, CA / Riverside, CA / Sacramento, CA (tied)

Irvine, CA

Albuquerque, NM / Milwaukee, WI / Oakland, CA (tied)

“We are tremendously proud Chicago has been named the most welcoming city in America for immigrants and refugees,” said Chicago Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot. “This ranking reflects the passionate and dedicated work of countless public officials and community members across our city who have come together to stand up and fight for the rights of our immigrant and refugee communities, no matter the cost. We are a nation of nations, and will continue to build on our heritage that encourages, respects, and supports our residents as they strive to create a future for their families and fulfill their own American dream.”

Other key takeaways from this year’s Index include:

  • Cities with high index scores are communities where all residents, regardless of where they are born, do well. 
    • U.S.-born entrepreneurs in the top 25 cities earn more ($1,600 more per year) than the Index average for U.S.-born entrepreneurs. 
    • The share of both U.S. born and immigrant college-educated residents is higher in the top 25 cities (37.6% of U.S. born residents and 33.1% of immigrants) than the Index average (35.2% of U.S. born residents and 29.2% of immigrants).
  • Cities have adopted a wide range of policies that welcome and support immigrants. 36 of the 100 cities in the Index now have an office for immigrant affairs, including Chicago’s Office of New Americans. More than half—54 out of 100— of all cities in the Index run or support entrepreneurship programs that are inclusive of immigrants. These programs include dedicated outreach that ensures immigrants are part of these programs. And 62 cities have or provided support for services that guide immigrants through the naturalization process. Many studies have shown that when immigrants become citizens, their earnings increase and their neighborhoods benefit from their growing spending power and tax revenues. 
  • Large, traditional immigration gateways are still leading other cities on immigration policies. Chicago, IL, San Francisco, CA, Los Angeles, CA, and New York, NY got the highest policy scores as a result of their strong support for immigrants. Each city maintains a local office dedicated to immigrant inclusion. However, these cities do not fare as highly on socioeconomic measures, such as access to affordable housing.
  • Smaller, more affordable cities top the socioeconomic category in the Index. Jacksonville, FL, Norfolk, VA, and St. Petersburg, FL, shared first place for the top socioeconomic outcome score. These cities scored especially high in livability, thanks to smaller gaps in homeownership rates, health insurance rates, and educational attainment rates between immigrants and the U.S.-born.

Explore the NAE Cities Index and see how your city is doing here. Learn more about the methodology of the NAE Cities Index here

About New American Economy

New American Economy (NAE) is a bipartisan research and advocacy organization founded to educate, empower and support policymakers, influencers, and citizens across the country that see the economic and social benefits of a smart approach to immigration reform. NAE has created a coalition of civic, business, and cultural leaders who span the political spectrum and represent all 50 states. NAE makes the case for smart immigration reform in four ways: 1) we use powerful research to demonstrate how immigration impacts our economy, 2) we organize champions at the grassroots and influencer levels to build support for immigration, 3) we partner with state and local leaders to advocate for policies that recognize the value immigrants add locally, and 4) we show immigrant contributions to American culture through film, food, art, sports, comedy, and more.

CONTACT: Sona Rai, Sona@NewAmericanEconomy.org, (646) 324-8284

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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…