Immigrants in Alabama

August 6, 2020

Alabama has a small but growing immigrant population. Immigrants represent a small share of the state’s total population, yet a variety of industries rely heavily on immigrants. Roughly one out of every seven workers in life, physical, and social sciences is an immigrant, as are 9 percent of construction and extraction employees. The majority of immigrants speak English well and are naturalized citizens or eligible for naturalization. As neighbors, business owners, taxpayers, and workers, immigrants are an integral part of Alabama’s diverse and thriving communities and make extensive contributions that benefit all.

Three percent of Alabama residents are immigrants, while another 3 percent of residents are native-born U.S. citizens with at least one immigrant parent.

  • In 2018, 162,567 immigrants (foreign-born individuals) comprised 3 percent of the population.
  • Alabama was home to 79,394 women, 70,377 men, and 12,796 children who were immigrants.
  • The top countries of origin for immigrants were Mexico (27 percent of immigrants), China (6 percent), India (6 percent), Guatemala (5 percent), and Germany (5 percent).
  • In 2018, 166,266 people in Alabama (3 percent of the state’s population) were native-born Americans who had at least one immigrant parent.

Two in five immigrants in Alabama are naturalized U.S. citizens.

  • 67,130 immigrants (41 percent) had naturalized as of 2018, and 31,237 immigrants were eligible to become naturalized U.S. citizens in 2017.
  • Three in four (76 percent) immigrants reported speaking English “well” or “very well.”

Immigrants in Alabama are distributed across the educational spectrum.

  • One-third (33 percent) of adult immigrants had a college degree or more education in 2018, while more than one-quarter (27 percent) had less than a high school diploma. 

Education Level

Share (%) of All Immigrants

Share (%) of All Natives

College degree or more

33

25

Some college

18

31

High school diploma only

22

31

Less than a high school diploma

27

13

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

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

  • 55,000 undocumented immigrants comprised 34 percent of the immigrant population and 1 percent of the total state population in 2016.
  • 91,947 people in Alabama, including 39,378 U.S. citizens, lived with at least one undocumented family member between 2010 and 2014.
  • During the same period, about 3 percent of children in the state were U.S. citizens living with at least one undocumented family member (32,204 children in total).

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

  • 3,970 active DACA recipients lived in Alabama as of March 2020, while DACA has been granted to 4,707 people in total since 2012.
  • As of 2019, 58 percent of DACA-eligible immigrants in Alabama had applied for DACA.
  • An additional 3,000 residents of the state would satisfy all but the educational requirements for DACA, and fewer than 1,000 would become eligible as they grew older.

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

  • 96,292 immigrant workers comprised 4 percent of the labor force in 2018. 
  • Immigrant workers were most numerous in the following industries:

Industry

Number of Immigrant Workers

Manufacturing

18,050

Construction

14,871

Retail Trade

12,667

Accommodation and Food Services

12,284

Educational Services

10,287

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

8

Other Services (except Public Administration)

6

Accommodation and Food Services

6

Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing, and Hunting

5

Manufacturing

5

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 Alabama workforce in a range of occupations.

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

Occupation Category

Number of Immigrant Workers

Production

11,721

Construction and Extraction

11,598

Food Preparation and Serving Related

10,316

Transportation and Material Moving

8,273

Building and Grounds Cleaning & Maintenance

8,074

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)

Life, Physical, and Social Science

15

Construction and Extraction

9

Personal Care and Service

8

Food Preparation and Serving Related

7

Building and Grounds Cleaning & Maintenance

7

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 2 percent of Alabama’s workforce in 2016.

Immigrants in Alabama have contributed over a billion dollars in taxes.

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

  • Alabama residents in immigrant-led households had $3.7 billion in spending power (after-tax income) in 2018.

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

  • 12,670 immigrant business owners accounted for 6 percent of all self-employed Alabama residents in 2018 and generated $319.8 million in business income.

Most Read

  • Publications
  • Blog Posts
  • Past:
  • Trending