Immigrants in Massachusetts

October 5, 2017

Immigrants continue to play a vital role in Massachusetts today, making up 16 percent of the state’s population. A fifth of the Massachusetts labor force is foreign born, with immigrants supporting the state’s healthcare, science, and service industries, among others. As workers, business owners, taxpayers, and neighbors, immigrants are an integral part of Massachusetts’ diverse and thriving communities and make extensive contributions that benefit all.

Nearly one in six Massachusetts residents is an immigrant, while one in residents a native-born U.S. citizen with at least one immigrant parent.

  • In 2015, 1.1 million immigrants (foreign-born individuals) comprised 16.1 percent of the population.
  • Massachusetts was home to 539,003 women, 497,730 men, and 59,220 children who were immigrants.
  • The top countries of origin for immigrants were China (8.8 percent of immigrants), the Dominican Republic (7.4 percent), India (6 percent), Brazil (5.6 percent), and Haiti (5.1 percent).
  • In 2016, 979,006 people in Massachusetts (14.4 percent of the state’s population) were native-born Americans who had at least one immigrant parent.

Over half of all immigrants in Massachusetts are naturalized U.S. citizens.

  • 572,765 immigrants (52.3 percent) had naturalized as of 2015, and 244,151 immigrants were eligible to become naturalized U.S. citizens in 2015.
  • More than three-quarters of immigrants (78 percent) reported speaking English “well” or “very well.”

Over a third of all immigrants in Massachusetts have a college degree or more.

  • Nearly 37 percent of adult immigrants had a college degree or more education in 2015, while just over 21 percent had less than a high school diploma. 

Education Level

Share (%) of All Immigrants

Share (%) of All Natives

College degree or more

36.8

42.6

Some college

17.6

25.1

High school diploma only

24.3

25.4

Less than a high-school diploma

21.3

6.8

More than 100,000 U.S. citizens in Massachusetts live with at least one family member who is undocumented.

  • 210,000 undocumented immigrants comprised 19 percent of the immigrant population and 3.1 percent of the total state population in 2014.
  • 233,035 people in Massachusetts, including 77,183 born in the United States, lived with at least one undocumented family member between 2010 and 2014.
  • During the same period, 1 in 20 children in the state was a U.S.-citizen child living with at least one undocumented family member (66,803 children total).

Nearly 6,000 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients live in Massachusetts.

  • As of 2016, 50 percent of DACA-eligible immigrants in Massachusetts, or 9,517 people, had applied for DACA.
  • An additional 2,000 residents of the state satisfied all but the educational requirements for DACA, and another 2,000 would be eligible as they grew older.

One in five workers in Massachusetts is an immigrant, together making up a vital part of the labor force in a range of industries.

  • 728,067 immigrant workers comprised 20 percent of the labor force in 2015. 
  • Immigrant workers were most numerous in the following industries:

Industry

Number of Immigrant Workers

Health Care and Social Assistance

143,791

Manufacturing

92,247

Accommodation and Food Services

85,230

Educational Services

74,002

Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services

73,506

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)

Administrative & Support; Waste Management; and Remediation Services

26.2

Accommodation and Food Services

25.9

Manufacturing

24.7

Other Services (except Public Administration)

22.9

Transportation and Warehousing

21.2

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

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

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

Occupation Category

Number of Immigrant Workers

Management

76,285

Office and Administrative Support

66,625

Food Preparation and Serving Related

64,821

Building and Grounds Cleaning & Maintenance

61,736

Sales and Related

60,611

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)

Building and Grounds Cleaning & Maintenance

39.8

Life, Physical, and Social Sciences

33.4

Healthcare Support

30.3

Production

30.0

Computer and Mathematical Sciences

27.9

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

  • Undocumented immigrants comprised 4 percent of the state’s workforce in 2014.

Immigrants in Massachusetts have contributed billions of dollars in taxes.

  • Immigrant-led households in the state paid $6.5 billion in federal taxes and $3 billion in state and local taxes in 2014.
  • Undocumented immigrants in Massachusetts paid an estimated $184.6 million in state and local taxes in 2014. Their contribution would rise to $240.8 million if they could receive legal status.
  • DACA recipients in Massachusetts paid an estimated $24.3 million in state and local taxes in 2016.

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

  • Massachusetts residents in immigrant-led households had $27.3 billion in spending power (after-tax income) in 2014.

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

  • 68,364 immigrant business owners accounted for 20 percent of all self-employed Massachusetts residents in 2015 and generated $2.1 billion in business income.
  • In 2015, immigrants accounted for 21 percent of business owners in the Boston/Cambridge/Newton metropolitan area (which spans Massachusetts and New Hampshire) and 17 percent in the Providence/Warwick metro area (which spans Rhode Island and Massachusetts).

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