Immigrants in South Dakota

October 16, 2017

South Dakota has a small but growing immigrant community, much of which emigrated from Mexico and Nepal. While roughly 3 percent of South Dakota’s population was born in another country, foreign-born residents support the state’s economy across sectors. Immigrants make up a critical share of the state’s labor force; 12 percent of all residents working in the manufacturing industry, for example, are immigrants, as are over 10 percent of the state’s building maintenance workers and groundskeepers. As workers, business owners, taxpayers, and neighbors, immigrants are an integral part of South Dakota’s diverse and thriving communities and make extensive contributions that benefit all.

More than 3 percent of South Dakota residents are immigrants, and a similar share are native-born U.S. citizens with at least one immigrant parent.

  • In 2015, 27,845 immigrants (foreign-born individuals) comprised 3.2 percent of the state’s population.
  • South Dakota was home to 11,867 women, 11,877 men, and 4,101 children who were immigrants.
  • The top countries of origin for immigrants were Mexico (12.1 percent of immigrants), Nepal (9.8 percent), Ethiopia (9.7 percent), Croatia (8 percent), and Guatemala (7.4 percent).
  • In 2016, 28,478 people in South Dakota (3.4 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 South Dakota are naturalized U.S. citizens.

  • 10,426 immigrants (37.4 percent) had naturalized as of 2015, and 6,002 immigrants were eligible to become naturalized U.S. citizens in 2015.
  • Nearly three in four immigrants (74.3 percent) reported speaking English “well” or “very well.”

Immigrants in South Dakota are distributed across the educational spectrum.

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

Education Level

Share (%) of All Immigrants

Share (%) of All Natives

College degree or more

25.6

27.6

Some college

16.6

32.9

High school diploma only

23.0

31.6

Less than a high-school diploma

34.8

7.9

More than 3,000 U.S. citizens in South Dakota live with at least one family member who is undocumented.

  • In 2014, approximately 5,000 undocumented immigrants comprised 21 percent of the immigrant population, or a fraction of the total state population at 0.6 percent.
  • 6,762 people in South Dakota, including 3,055 born in the United States, lived with at least one undocumented family member between 2010 and 2014.
  • During the same period, 2,485 U.S.-citizen children (about 1 percent of all children in the state) were living with at least one undocumented family member.

Just over 200 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients live in South Dakota.

  • As of 2017, about 311 people in South Dakota had applied for DACA.
  • DACA recipients in South Dakota paid an estimated $585,000 in state and local taxes in 2016.

Immigrants are vital members of the South Dakota labor force across industries.

  • 18,398 immigrant workers comprised 4.1 percent of the labor force in 2015.
  • Immigrant workers were most numerous in the following industries:

Industry

Number of Immigrant Workers

Manufacturing

6,249

Health Care and Social Assistance

2,954

Accommodation and Food Services

2,436

Transportatation & Warehousing

1,163

Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing & Hunting

1,018

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

12.2

Transportation and Warehousing

6.6

Wholesale Trade

6.0

Accommodation and Food Services

5.6

Administrative & Support; Waste Management; and Remediation Services

4.4

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

Immigrants are a significant part of the South Dakota 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

5,286

Building and Grounds Cleaning & Maintenance

2,339

Transportation and Material Moving

1,737

Personal Care and Service

1,436

Food Preparation and Serving Related

1,286

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

12.6

Building and Grounds Cleaning & Maintenance

10.1

Personal Care and Service

7.9

Farming, Fishing, and Forestry

6.3

Legal

6.2

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

  • Undocumented immigrants comprised a fraction of the state’s workforce at 0.8 percent in 2014.

Immigrants in South Dakota contribute tens of millions of dollars in yearly taxes.

As consumers, immigrants add hundreds of billions of dollars to South Dakota’s economy every year.

  • South Dakotans in immigrant-led households had $339.1 million in spending power (after-tax income) in 2014.

Immigrant entrepreneurs in South Dakota generate millions of dollars in annual business revenue.

  • 1,972 immigrant business owners accounted for 3.2 percent of all self-employed South Dakota residents in 2015 and generated $3.2 million in business income.

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