Immigrants in Oklahoma

August 6, 2020

Oklahoma has a small but growing community of immigrants, many of whom emigrated from Mexico. One in 16 Oklahomians was born in another country, and foreign-born residents support the state’s economy across sectors. For example, 18 percent of all farmers, fishers, and foresters in Oklahoma are immigrants, as are 16 percent of the state’s construction industry employees. As neighbors, business owners, taxpayers, and workers, immigrants are an integral part of Oklahoma’s diverse and thriving communities and make extensive contributions that benefit all.

Six percent of Oklahoma residents are immigrants, while another 6 percent of residents are native-born U.S. citizens with at least one immigrant parent.

  • In 2018, 236,882 immigrants (foreign-born individuals) comprised 6 percent of the population.
  • Oklahoma was home to 107,582 women, 112,178 men, and 17,122 children who were immigrants.
  • The top countries of origin for immigrants were Mexico (45 percent of immigrants), Vietnam (5 percent), India (5 percent), Germany (3 percent), and Guatemala (3 percent).
  • In 2018, 246,550 people in Oklahoma (6 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 Oklahoma are naturalized U.S. citizens.

  • 88,485 immigrants (37 percent) had naturalized as of 2018, and 41,672 immigrants were eligible to become naturalized U.S. citizens in 2017.
  • Nearly three-fourths (74 percent) of immigrants reported speaking English “well” or “very well.”

Most immigrants in Oklahoma have at least a high school education. 

  • About one-fourth (24 percent) of adult immigrants had a college degree or more education in 2018, while more than a third (35 percent) had less than a high school diploma.

Education Level

Share (%) of All Immigrants

Share (%) of All Natives

College degree or more

24

26

Some college

17

33

High school diploma only

24

32

Less than a high school diploma

35

10

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

Tens of thousands of U.S. citizens in Oklahoma live with at least one family member who is undocumented.

  • 85,000 undocumented immigrants comprised 38 percent of the immigrant population and 2 percent of the total state population in 2016.
  • 125,989 people in Oklahoma, including 60,772 U.S. citizens, lived with at least one undocumented family member between 2010 and 2014.
  • During the same period, about 1 in 20 children in the state was a U.S. citizen living with at least one undocumented family member (47,937 children in total).

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

  • 6,110 active DACA recipients lived in Oklahoma as of March 2020, while DACA has been granted to 7,490 people in total since 2012.
  • As of 2019, 59 percent of DACA-eligible immigrants in Oklahoma 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.

One in 12 Oklahoma workers is an immigrant, making up a vital part of the state’s labor force.

  • 149,512 immigrant workers comprised 8 percent of the labor force in 2018.
  • Immigrant workers were most numerous in the following industries:

Industry

Number of Immigrant Workers

Accommodation and Food Services

26,097

Construction

23,153

Manufacturing

21,482

Health Care and Social Assistance

16,795

Retail Trade

15,009

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

16

Accommodation and Food Services

14

Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing, and Hunting

12

Administrative & Support; Waste Management; and Remediation Services

12

Manufacturing

11

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 Oklahoma workforce in a range of occupations.

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

Occupation Category

Number of Immigrant Workers

Construction and Extraction

23,839

Food Preparation and Serving Related

18,032

Building and Grounds Cleaning & Maintenance

17,593

Production

15,100

Office and Administrative Support

14,405

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

18

Farming, Fishing, and Forestry

18

Construction and Extraction

17

Food Preparation and Serving Related

12

Life, Physical, and Social Science

11

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 3 percent of Oklahoma’s workforce in 2016.

Immigrants in Oklahoma have contributed more than a billion dollars in taxes.

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

  • Oklahoma residents in immigrant-led households had $4.2 billion in spending power (after-tax income) in 2018.

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

  • 14,453 immigrant business owners accounted for 7 percent of all self-employed Oklahoma residents in 2018 and generated $252.3 million in business income.

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