Immigrants in Iowa

October 13, 2017

Iowa has a small but growing immigrant community, much of which emigrated from Mexico. Nearly 5 percent of Iowa’s population was born in another country, and over 4 percent of residents are native-born Americans who have at least one immigrant parent. While relatively few in number, immigrants help support Iowa’s economy and remain a critical component of the state’s labor force: 20 percent of all residents working in the computer and math sciences are immigrants, as are 13 percent of production employees. As workers, business owners, taxpayers, and neighbors, immigrants are an integral part of Iowa’s diverse and thriving communities and make extensive contributions that benefit all.

Nearly 5 percent of Iowa residents are immigrants, while more than 4 percent are native-born U.S. citizens with at least one immigrant parent.

  • In 2015, 148,721 immigrants (foreign-born individuals) comprised 4.8 percent of the state’s population.
  • Iowa was home to 66,474 women, 69,751 men, and 12,496 children who were immigrants.
  • The top countries of origin for immigrants were Mexico (29.3 percent of immigrants), China (7.7 percent), India (7.1 percent), Vietnam (4.5 percent), and Bosnia and Herzegovina (3.3 percent).
  • In 2016, 135,759 people in Iowa (4.4 percent of the state’s population) were native-born Americans who had at least one immigrant parent.

More than a third of all immigrants in Iowa are naturalized U.S. citizens.

  • As of 2015, 55,685 immigrants (37.4 percent) had naturalized, and 23,465 immigrants were eligible to become naturalized U.S. citizens in 2015.
  • Seven in 10 immigrants (71.2 percent) reported speaking English “well” or “very well.”

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

  • One in four adult immigrants had a college degree or more education in 2015, while nearly a third had less than a high school diploma.

Education Level

Share (%) of All Immigrants

Share (%) of All Natives

College degree or more

27.0

26.8

Some college

18.0

33.7

High school diploma only

22.7

32.6

Less than a high-school diploma

32.3

6.9

More than 25,000 U.S. citizens in Iowa live with at least one family member who is undocumented.

  • 40,000 undocumented immigrants comprised 26 percent of the immigrant population and 1.3 percent of the total state population in 2014.
  • 58,956 people in Iowa, including 24,639 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 (20,915 children in total).

Approximately 2,500 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients live in Iowa.

  • As of 2016, 76 percent of DACA-eligible immigrants in Iowa, or 3,131 people, had applied for DACA.
  • Up to an additional 2,000 residents of the state satisfied all but the educational requirements for DACA, and up to 1,000 others would be additionally eligible as they grew older.

Immigrants are vital members of the Iowa labor force across industries.

  • 96,089 immigrant workers comprised 5.8 percent of the labor force in 2015.
  • Immigrant workers were most numerous in the following industries:

Industry

Number of Immigrant Workers

Manufacturing

27,168

Health Care and Social Assistance

14,013

Accommodation and Food Services

10,122

Educational Services

9,356

Construction

8,208

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)

Manufacturing

9.6

Accommodation and Food Services

8.6

Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services

8.5

Finance and Insurance

6.6

Construction

6.3

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

Immigrants are an important part of the Iowa workforce in a range of occupations.

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

Occupation Category

Number of Immigrant Workers

Production

21,467

Transportation and Material Moving

12,273

Food Preparation and Serving Related

9,866

Computer and Mathematical Sciences

7,665

Construction and Extraction

6,871

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)

Computer and Mathematical Sciences

19.5

Production

12.7

Food Preparation and Serving Related

8.6

Life, Physical, and Social Sciences

8.4

Transportation and Material Moving

7.9

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 Iowa contribute over a billion dollars in yearly taxes.

  • Immigrant-led households in the state paid $820.3 million in federal taxes and $348.9 million in state and local taxes in 2014.
  • Undocumented immigrants in Iowa paid an estimated $36.7 million in state and local taxes in 2014. Their contribution would rise to $45.6 million if they could receive legal status.
  • DACA recipients in Iowa paid an estimated $6.8 million in state and local taxes in 2016.

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

  • Iowa residents in immigrant-led households had $3 billion in spending power (after-tax income) in 2014.

Immigrant entrepreneurs in Iowa generate millions of dollars in annual business revenue.

  • 4,435 immigrant business owners accounted for 2.5 percent of all self-employed Iowa residents in 2015 and generated $54.6 million in business income.

Most Read

  • Publications
  • Blog Posts
  • Past:
  • Trending