Immigrants in Colorado

August 6, 2020

Colorado has a growing community of immigrants, many of whom hail from Mexico. Immigrants make up one out of every ten residents and another one in ten residents was born in the U.S. to at least one immigrant parent. Nearly one in eight Coloradan workers is an immigrant, as well as one in six business owners in the state’s densely populated Denver metro area. As neighbors, business owners, taxpayers, and workers, immigrants are an integral part of Colorado’s diverse and thriving communities and make extensive contributions that benefit all.

One in ten Colorado residents is an immigrant, while another one in ten residents is a native-born U.S. citizen with at least one immigrant parent.

  • In 2018, 549,181 immigrants (foreign-born individuals) comprised 10 percent of the population.
  • Colorado was home to 262,992 women, 251,267 men, and 34,922 children who were immigrants.
  • The top countries of origin for immigrants were Mexico (40 percent of immigrants), India (5 percent), China (3 percent), Vietnam (3 percent), and Canada (3 percent).
  • In 2018, 609,402 people in Colorado (11 percent of the state’s population) were native-born Americans who had at least one immigrant parent.

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

  • 247,015 immigrants (45 percent) had naturalized as of 2018, and 114,617 immigrants were eligible to become naturalized U.S. citizens in 2017.
  • More than three in four (77 percent) immigrants reported speaking English “well” or “very well.”

Immigrants in Colorado are distributed across the educational spectrum.

  • Nearly a third (30 percent) of adult immigrants had a college degree or more education in 2018, while over a quarter (29 percent) had less than a high school diploma.

Education Level

Share (%) of All Immigrants

Share (%) of All Natives

College degree or more

30

43

Some college

19

31

High school diploma only

22

21

Less than a high school diploma

29

5

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2018 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates.

Nearly 142,000 U.S. citizens in Colorado live with at least one family member who is undocumented.

  • 190,000 undocumented immigrants comprised 34 percent of the immigrant population and 3 percent of the total state population in 2016.
  • 276,589 people in Colorado, including 141,705 U.S. citizens, lived with at least one undocumented family member between 2010 and 2014.
  • During the same period, about 1 in 11 children in the state was a U.S. citizen living with at least one undocumented family member (110,634 children in total).

Colorado is home to thousands of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients.

  • 14,520 active DACA recipients lived in Colorado as of March 2020, while DACA has been granted to 18,555 people in total since 2012.
  • As of 2019, 64 percent of DACA-eligible immigrants in Colorado had applied for DACA.
  • An additional 6,000 residents of the state would satisfy all but the educational requirements for DACA, and fewer than a thousand would become eligible as they grew older.

One in eight workers in Colorado is an immigrant, together making up an important part of the state’s labor force across industries.

  • 363,714 immigrant workers comprised 12 percent of the labor force in 2018.
  • Immigrant workers were most numerous in the following industries:

Industry

Number of Immigrant Workers

Construction

57,830

Accommodation and Food Services

42,333

Health Care and Social Assistance

42,061

Manufacturing

37,547

Retail Trade

34,181

Source: Analysis of the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2018 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)

Construction

21

Administrative & Support; Waste Management; and Remediation Services

19

Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing, and Hunting

17

Manufacturing

17

Accommodation and Food Services

14

Source: Analysis of the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2018 American Community Survey 1-year PUMS data by the American Immigration Council.

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

  • In 2018, immigrant workers were most numerous in the following occupation groups:

Occupation Category

Number of Immigrant Workers

Construction and Extraction

53,200

Building and Grounds Cleaning & Maintenance

39,417

Office and Administrative Support

32,801

Sales and Related

30,771

Food Preparation and Serving Related

30,625

Source: Analysis of the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2018 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)

Building and Grounds Cleaning & Maintenance

31

Construction and Extraction

27

Farming, Fishing, and Forestry

21

Production

20

Life, Physical, and Social Science

18

Source: Analysis of the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2018 American Community Survey 1-year PUMS data by the American Immigration Council.

  • Undocumented immigrants comprised 5 percent of Colorado’s workforce in 2016.

Immigrants in Colorado have contributed billions of dollars in taxes.

As consumers, immigrants add billions to Colorado’s economy.

  • Colorado residents in immigrant-led households had $14.2 billion in spending power (after-tax income) in 2018.

Immigrant entrepreneurs in Colorado generate a billion dollars in business revenue.

  • 42,844 immigrant business owners accounted for 12 percent of all self-employed Colorado residents in 2018 and generated $1 billion in business income.
  • In 2018, one in six (16 percent) business owners in the Denver/Aurora metropolitan area was an immigrant.

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