Immigrants in Rhode Island

October 16, 2017

Rhode Island has a large community of immigrants, much of which emigrated from the Dominican Republic. More than one in eight Rhode Islanders was born in another country, while over 15 percent of residents are native-born Americans who have at least one immigrant parent. Rhode Island’s economy benefits from the active participation of immigrants in the labor force—from supporting the state’s administrative and service industries to representing a fourth of company and enterprise managers. As workers, business owners, taxpayers, and neighbors, immigrants are an integral part of Rhode Island’s diverse and thriving communities and make extensive contributions that benefit all.

More than one in eight Rhode Island residents is an immigrant, while more than one in seven residents is a native-born U.S. citizen with at least one immigrant parent.

  • In 2015, 142,324 immigrants (foreign-born individuals) comprised 13.5 percent of the state’s population.
  • Rhode Island was home to 67,897 women, 66,585 men, and 7,842 children who were immigrants.
  • The top countries of origin for immigrants were the Dominican Republic (17.8 percent of immigrants), Portugal (9.8 percent), Guatemala (9.3 percent), Cabo Verde (7.2 percent), and China (4.9 percent).
  • In 2016, 161,3215 people in Rhode Island (15.4 percent of the state’s population) were native-born Americans who had at least one immigrant parent.

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

  • 77,381 immigrants (54.4 percent) had naturalized as of 2015, and 32,697 immigrants were eligible to become naturalized U.S. citizens in 2015.
  • Nearly three-quarters of immigrants (74.6 percent) reported speaking English “well” or “very well.”

Immigrants in Rhode Island are found across the educational spectrum.

  • More than one in five adult immigrants had a college degree or more education in 2015, while nearly 3 in 10 had less than a high school diploma.

Education Level

Share (%) of All Immigrants

Share (%) of All Natives

College degree or more

23.1

34.6

Some college

20.9

28.2

High school diploma only

26.4

28.3

Less than a high-school diploma

29.6

8.9

Over 18,000 U.S. citizens in Rhode Island live with at least one family member who is undocumented.

  • 30,000 undocumented immigrants comprised 21 percent of the immigrant population and 2.9 percent of the total state population in 2014.
  • 37,475 people in Rhode Island, including 14,507 born in the United States, lived with at least one undocumented family member between 2010 and 2014.
  • During the same period, 6 percent of children in the state were U.S. citizens living with at least one undocumented family member (12,541 children in total).

Nearly 1,000 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients live in Rhode Island.

  • As of 2016, 42 percent of DACA-eligible immigrants in Rhode Island, or 1,460 people, had applied for DACA.
  • Up to 2,000 additional 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 Rhode Island workforce across industries.

  • 87,771 immigrant workers comprised 15.6 percent of the labor force in 2015. 
  • Immigrant workers were most numerous in the following industries:

Industry

Number of Immigrant Workers

Manufacturing

17,897

Health Care and Social Assistance

16,151

Accommodation and Food Services

9,522

Retail Trade

8,882

Educational Services

7,433

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

27.7

Manufacturing

26.1

Management of Companies and Enterprises

24.8

Wholesale Trade

18.0

Other Services (except Public Administration)

16.8

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 Rhode Island 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

13,981

Office and Administrative Support

12,989

Building and Grounds Cleaning & Maintenance

7,446

Sales and Related

7,426

Transportation and Material Moving

7,015

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)

Production

36.2

Building and Grounds Cleaning & Maintenance

32.4

Healthcare Support

23.2

Computer and Mathematical Sciences

22.7

Transportation and Material Moving

20.2

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 Rhode Island contribute over half a billion dollars in yearly taxes.

  • Immigrant-led households in the state paid $549.9 million in federal taxes and $336.6 million in state and local taxes in 2014.
  • Undocumented immigrants in Rhode Island paid an estimated $31.2 million in state and local taxes in 2014. Their contribution would rise to $37.6 million if they could receive legal status.
  • DACA recipients in Rhode Island paid an estimated $3.8 million in state and local taxes in 2016.

As consumers, immigrants add billions of dollars to Rhode Island’s economy every year.

  • Rhode Islanders in immigrant-led households had $2.6 billion in spending power (after-tax income) in 2014.

Immigrant entrepreneurs represent over 14 percent of Rhode Island’s business owners.

  • 6,395 immigrant business owners accounted for 14.3 percent of all self-employed Rhode Island residents in 2015 and generated $185.3 million in business revenue.
  • In 2015, immigrants accounted for 16.8 percent of business owners in the Providence/Warwick metropolitan area, which extends from Rhode Island into Massachusetts.

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