Immigrants in Alabama

October 5, 2017

Alabama has a small but growing immigration population. Immigrants represent nearly 4 percent of the state’s total population, yet a variety of industries rely heavily on immigrants. Nearly 13 percent of all workers in life, physical, and social sciences are immigrants, as are 12 percent of construction and extraction employees. As workers, business owners, taxpayers, and neighbors, immigrants are an integral part of Alabama’s diverse and thriving communities and make extensive contributions that benefit all.

Immigrants make up over 3 percent of Alabama residents, and about 3 percent of residents are native-born U.S. citizens who have at least one immigrant parent.

  • In 2015, 169,972 immigrants (foreign-born individuals) comprised 3.5 percent of the state’s population.
  • Alabama was home to 74,369 women, 79,775 men, and 15,828 children who were immigrants.
  • The top countries of origin for immigrants were Mexico (32 percent of immigrants), Guatemala (8 percent), India (5 percent), Korea (4 percent), and Germany (4 percent).
  • In 2016, 148,160 people in Alabama (3.1 percent of the state’s population) were native-born Americans who had at least one immigrant parent.

Over a third of all immigrants in Alabama are naturalized U.S. citizens.

  • 61,631 immigrants (36.3 percent) had naturalized as of 2015, and 29,740 immigrants were eligible to become naturalized U.S. citizens in 2015.
  • Nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of immigrants reported speaking English “well” or “very well.”

Immigrants in Alabama are concentrated at both ends of the educational spectrum.

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

Education Level

Share (%) of All Immigrants

Share (%) of All Natives

College degree or more

28.1

24.0

Some college

19.4

30.1

High school diploma only

20.1

31.5

Less than a high-school diploma

32.4

14.4

Nearly 40,000 U.S. citizens in Alabama live with at least one family member who is undocumented.

  • 65,000 undocumented immigrants comprised 39 percent of the immigrant population and 1.3 percent of the total state population in 2014.
  • 91,947 people in Alabama, including 37,029 born in the United States, lived with at least one undocumented family member between 2010 and 2014.
  • During the same period, 3 percent of children in the state were U.S. citizens living with at least one undocumented family member (32,204 children in total).

Nearly 4,000 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients live in Alabama.

  • As of 2016, 55 percent of DACA-eligible immigrants in Alabama, or 4,803 people, had applied for DACA.
  • An additional 4,000 residents of the state satisfied all but the educational requirements for DACA, and another 2,000 would be eligible as they grew older.

Immigrants are an integral part of the Alabama workforce across industries.

  • 100,932 immigrant workers comprised 5 percent of the labor force in 2015. 
  • Immigrant workers were most numerous in the following industries:

Industry

Number of Immigrant Workers

Manufacturing

22,053

Construction

17,978

Accommodation and Food Services

14,686

Retail Trade

10,528

Health Care and Social Assistance

9,549

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)

Construction

10.1

Accommodation and Food Services

6.9

Manufacturing

6.2

Administrative & Support; Waste Management; and Remediation Services

5.8

Other Services (except Public Administration)

5.0

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

Immigrants are a vital part of the Alabama workforce in a range of occupations.

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

Occupation Category

Number of Immigrant Workers

Construction and Extraction

17,694

Production

15,392

Food Preparation and Serving Related

11,332

Building and Grounds Cleaning & Maintenance

9,443

Sales and Related

8,940

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)

Life, Physical, and Social Sciences

12.9

Construction and Extraction

11.9

Building and Grounds Cleaning & Maintenance

8.0

Architecture and Engineering

7.0

Food Preparation and Serving Related

6.9

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

  • Undocumented immigrants comprised 1.8 percent of the state’s workforce in 2014.

Immigrants in Alabama have contributed hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes.

  • Immigrant-led households in the state paid $719.7 million in federal taxes and $252.6 million in state and local taxes in 2014.
  • Undocumented immigrants in Alabama paid an estimated $62.3 million in state and local taxes in 2014. Their contribution would rise to $80 million if they could receive legal status.
  • DACA recipients in Alabama paid an estimated $13.2 million in state and local taxes in 2016.

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

  • Alabama residents in immigrant-led households had $2.7 billion in spending power (after-tax income) in 2014.

Immigrant entrepreneurs in Alabama generate hundreds of millions of dollars in business revenue.

  • 9,211 immigrant business owners accounted for 5 percent of all self-employed Alabama residents in 2015 and generated $179.3 million in business income.
  • In 2015, immigrants accounted for 20 percent of business owners in the Birmingham/Hoover metropolitan area.

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