Immigrants in California

 

August 31, 2017

California has long been home to the largest number of immigrants in the United States, having accepted early settlers along their seaports as far back as the 17th century. Immigrants now account for over one quarter of the state’s population and comprise nearly 34 percent of the entire work force. As workers, business owners, taxpayers, and neighbors, immigrants are an integral part of California’s diverse and thriving communities and make extensive contributions that benefit all.

More than a quarter of California residents are immigrants, while nearly one in four residents is a native-born U.S. citizen with at least one immigrant parent.

  • In 2015, 10.7 million immigrants (foreign-born individuals) comprised 27.3 percent of the population.
  • California was home to 5.3 million women, 4.9 million men, and nearly 450,000 children who were immigrants.
  • The top countries of origin for immigrants were Mexico (40 percent of immigrants), the Philippines (8 percent), China (5.9 percent), Vietnam (4.8 percent), and India (4.5 percent).
  • In 2016, 9.3 million people in California (23.8 percent of the state’s population) were native-born Americans who had at least one immigrant parent.

Nearly half of all immigrants in California are naturalized U.S. citizens.

  • 5.3 million immigrants (49.7 percent) had naturalized as of 2015, and 2.2 million immigrants were eligible to become naturalized U.S. citizens in 2015.
  • Two-thirds (66.7 percent) of immigrants reported speaking English “well” or “very well.”

Immigrants in California are distributed across the educational spectrum.

  • More than a quarter of adult immigrants had a college degree or more education in 2015, while over a third had less than a high school diploma.

Education Level

Share (%) of All Immigrants

Share (%) of All Natives

College degree or more

27.4

35.1

Some college

18.6

35.3

High school diploma only

19.6

21.5

Less than a high-school diploma

34.4

8.0

Two million U.S. citizens in California live with at least one family member who is undocumented.

  • 2.4 million undocumented immigrants comprised 22 percent of the immigrant population and 6 percent of the total state population in 2015.
  • 4.7 million people in California, including 2 million born in the United States, lived with at least one undocumented family member between 2010 and 2014.
  • During the same period, nearly one in five children in the state was a U.S.-citizen child living with at least one undocumented family member (2.4 million children in total).

Nearly 223,000 California residents have been approved for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

  • As of 2016, 64 percent of DACA-eligible immigrants in California, or 242,339 people, had applied for DACA.
  • An additional 120,000 residents of the state satisfied all but the educational requirements for DACA, and another 62,000 would be eligible as they grew older.

Immigrants make up more than a third of the labor force in California and are integral to a range of industries.

  • 6.6 million immigrant workers comprised 33.9 percent of the labor force in 2015.
  • Immigrant workers were most numerous in the following industries:

Industry

Number of Immigrant Workers

Manufacturing

930,261

Health Care and Social Assistance

874,169

Accommodation and Food Services

691,552

Retail Trade

663,977

Construction

524,665

Analysis of the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2015 American Community Survey 1-year PUMS data by the American Immigration Council.

 

  • The largest shares of immigrant workers were in the following industries:

 

Industry

Immigrant Share (%)
(of all industry workers)

Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing & Hunting

66.9

Manufacturing

45.6

Administrative & Support; Waste Management; and Remediation Services

43.2

Other Services (except Public Administration)

39.7

Accommodation and Food Services

39.2

Analysis of the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2015 American Community Survey 1-year PUMS data by the American Immigration Council.

  

Immigrants are an integral part of the California workforce in a range of occupations.

  • In 2015, immigrant workers were most numerous in the following occupation groups:

 

Occupation Category

Number of Immigrant Workers

Office and Administrative Support

675,184

Sales and Related

641,880

Production

596,157

Management

587,525

Building and Grounds Cleaning & Maintenance

580,164

Analysis of the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2015 American Community Survey 1-year PUMS data by the American Immigration Council.

 

  • The largest shares of immigrant workers were in the following occupation groups:

 

Occupation Category

Immigrant Share (%)
(of all workers in occupation)

Farming, Fishing, and Forestry

77.1

Building and Grounds Cleaning & Maintenance

61.7

Production

53.3

Construction and Extraction

43.0

Computer and Mathematical Sciences

41.3

Analysis of the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2015 American Community Survey 1-year PUMS data by the American Immigration Council.

  • Undocumented immigrants comprised 9 percent of the state’s workforce in 2014.

Immigrants in California have contributed tens of billions of dollars in taxes.

As consumers, immigrants add hundreds of billions of dollars to California’s economy.

  • California residents in immigrant-led households had $238.7 billion in spending power (after-tax income) in 2014.

Immigrant entrepreneurs in California generate billions of dollars in business revenue.

  • Nearly 880,000 immigrant business owners accounted for 38.2 percent of all self-employed California residents in 2015 and generated $21.8 billion in business income.
  • In the following California metropolitan areas in 2015, at least one in six business owners was an immigrant.
  • Immigrants accounted for 40.2 percent of business owners in the Los Angeles/Long Beach/Anaheim metropolitan area,
    • 24.1 percent in Riverside/San Bernardino,
    • 17.4 percent in Sacramento/Arden/Arcade/Roseville,
    • 34.3 percent in San Diego/Carlsbad/San Marcos,
    • 31.2 percent in San Francisco/Oakland/Fremont, and
    • 42.4 percent in San Jose/Sunnyvale/Santa Clara.

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