Immigrants in Montana

October 13, 2017

Montana has a small but growing immigrant community, much of which emigrated from Canada and Mexico. While only 2 percent of Montana’s population was born in another country, foreign-born residents help support Montana’s economy across sectors. Immigrants make up a vital, educated share of the state’s labor force, with over a third holding a college or higher degree. Many of Montana’s immigrants lend their expertise as architects and engineers, accounting for 10 percent of residents working in the field, and roughly 14 percent of all Montanans working in the extraction industry are immigrants. As workers, business owners, taxpayers, and neighbors, immigrants are an integral part of Montana’s diverse and thriving communities and make extensive contributions that benefit all.

More than 2 percent of Montana residents are immigrants, while 4 percent are native-born U.S. citizens with at least one immigrant parent.

  • In 2015, 21,356 immigrants (foreign-born individuals) comprised 2.1 percent of the state’s population.
  • Montana was home to 11,065 women, 9,033 men, and 1,258 children who were immigrants.
  • The top countries of origin for immigrants were Canada (26.7 percent of immigrants), Mexico (12.5 percent), Germany (7.2 percent), England (5.7 percent), and Korea (4.4 percent).
  • In 2016, 44,815 people in Montana (4.4 percent of the state’s population) were native-born Americans who had at least one immigrant parent.

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

  • 11,373 immigrants (53.3 percent) had naturalized as of 2015, while 5,217 immigrants were eligible to become naturalized U.S. citizens in 2015.
  • More than 9 in 10 immigrants (93.3 percent) reported speaking English “well” or “very well.”

Most immigrants in Montana have pursued education at or above the college level.

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

Education Level

Share (%) of All Immigrants

Share (%) of All Natives

College degree or more

35.2

30.5

Some college

21.1

31.7

High school diploma only

29.2

31.5

Less than a high-school diploma

14.5

6.2

Hundreds of U.S. citizens in Montana live with at least one family member who is undocumented.

  • In 2014, fewer than 5,000 undocumented immigrants comprised 14 percent of the immigrant population, or a fraction of the total state population at 0.3 percent.
  • 1,715 people in Montana, including 764 born in the United States, lived with at least one undocumented family member between 2010 and 2014.
  • During the same period, 531 U.S. citizen children in the state were living with at least one undocumented family member.

Approximately 60 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients live in Montana.

  • As of 2017, 92 people in Montana had applied for DACA.
  • DACA recipients in Montana paid an estimated $101,000 in state and local taxes in 2016.

Immigrants are vital members of Montana’s labor force across a range of industries.

  • 11,265 immigrant workers comprised 2.2 percent of the labor force in 2015.
  • Immigrant workers were most numerous in the following industries:

Industry

Number of Immigrant Workers

Educational Services

1,897

Accommodation and Food Services

1,855

Mining Quarry Oil and Gas Extract

1,784

Health Care and Social Assistance

1,551

Administrative & Support; Waste Management; and Remediation Services

1,290

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)

Mining, Quarry, Oil & Gas Extract

13.6

Administrative & Support; Waste Management; and Remediation Services

6.8

Information

6.2

Accommodation and Food Services

3.3

Educational Services

3.3

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

Immigrant workers are an important part of the Montana workforce in a variety of occupations.

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

Occupation Category

Number of Immigrant Workers

Management

1,648

Education, Training, and Library Services

1,637

Building and Grounds Cleaning & Maintenance

1,571

Transportation and Material Moving

1,569

Construction and Extraction

1,417

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)

Architecture and Engineering

9.7

Building and Grounds Cleaning & Maintenance

5.5

Transportation and Material Moving

4.6

Education, Training, and Library Services

4.6

Farming, Fishing, and Forestry

3.4

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

  • Undocumented immigrants comprised a fraction of the state’s workforce at 0.4 percent in 2014.

Immigrants in Montana contribute hundreds of millions of dollars in yearly taxes.

As consumers, immigrants add nearly half a billion dollars to Montana’s economy every year.

  • Montanans in immigrant-led households had $474.2 million in spending power (after-tax income) in 2014.

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

  • 1,891 immigrant business owners accounted for 2.1 percent of all self-employed Montana residents in 2015 and generated $18 million in business income.

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