Immigrants in Illinois

August 6, 2020

Illinois has a growing community of immigrants, many hailing from Mexico. While one in seven residents in the state is an immigrant, more than one in six workers in Illinois is an immigrant and nearly a third of all business owners in the Chicago metro area are immigrants. Across sectors, immigrants support the state in many ways. For example, over a fifth of Illinoisans working in the food and accomodation industry are immigrants, as are a quarter of those working in computer and math occupations.

As neighbors, business owners, taxpayers, and workers, immigrants are an integral part of Illinois’s diverse and thriving communities and make extensive contributions that benefit all.

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

  • In 2018, 1.8 million immigrants (foreign-born individuals) comprised 14 percent of the population.
  • Illinois was home to 866,951 women, 844,506 men, and 79,856 children who were immigrants.
  • The top countries of origin for immigrants were Mexico (36 percent of immigrants), India (10 percent), Poland (7 percent), the Philippines (5 percent), and China (4 percent).
  • In 2018, 1.7 million people in Illinois (14 percent of the state’s population) were native-born Americans who had at least one immigrant parent.

More than half of all immigrants in Illinois are naturalized U.S. citizens.

  • 926,873 immigrants (52 percent) had naturalized as of 2018, and 321,304 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 Illinois are distributed across the educational spectrum.

  • A third (33 percent) of adult immigrants had a college degree or more education in 2018, while a quarter (25 percent) had less than a high school diploma.

Education Level

Share (%) of All Immigrants

Share (%) of All Natives

College degree or more

33

35

Some college

18

31

High school diploma only

24

27

Less than a high school diploma

25

7

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

395,000 U.S. citizens in Illinois live with at least one family member who is undocumented.

  • 400,000 undocumented immigrants comprised 22 percent of the immigrant population and 3 percent of the total state population in 2016.
  • 817,066 people in Illinois, including 395,179 U.S. citizens, lived with at least one undocumented family member between 2010 and 2014.
  • During the same period, about 1 in 10 children in the state was a U.S. citizen living with at least one undocumented family member (292,127 children in total).

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

  • 33,940 active DACA recipients lived in Illinois as of March 2020, while DACA has been granted to 45,002 people in total since 2012.
  • As of 2019, 51 percent of DACA-eligible immigrants in Illinois had applied for DACA.
  • An additional 16,000 residents of the state would satisfy all but the educational requirements for DACA, and fewer than 2,000 would become eligible as they grew older.

One in six workers in Illinois is an immigrant, together making up an important part of the state’s labor force in a range of industries.

  • 1.2 million immigrant workers comprised 18 percent of the labor force in 2018. 
  • Immigrant workers were most numerous in the following industries:

Industry

Number of Immigrant Workers

Manufacturing

218,530

Health Care and Social Assistance

158,663

Accommodation and Food Services

125,897

Retail Trade

112,570

Construction

96,137

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)

Administrative & Support; Waste Management; and Remediation Services

26

Manufacturing

25

Construction

23

Accommodation and Food Services

22

Other Services (except Public Administration)

21

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 Illinois 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

140,075

Transportation and Material Moving

139,123

Office and Administrative Support

111,063

Sales and Related

105,114

Management

98,765

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

32

Production

29

Computer and Mathematical

26

Construction and Extraction

25

Life, Physical, and Social Science

25

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 Illinois’s workforce in 2016.

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

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

  • Illinois residents in immigrant-led households had $47.8 billion in spending power (after-tax income) in 2018.

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

  • 137,907 immigrant business owners accounted for 23 percent of all self-employed Illinois residents in 2018 and generated $2.8 billion in business income.
  • In 2018, immigrants accounted for 32 percent of business owners in the Chicago/Naperville/Joliet metropolitan area (which stretches from Wisconsin to Indiana through Illinois) and 3 percent of business owners in the St. Louis metro area (which straddles Illinois and Missouri).

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