Immigrants in Texas

August 6, 2020

Texas has a long history of immigration, with the majority of immigrants hailing from Mexico. Immigrants now account for one-sixth of the state’s total population and support the local economy in a growing number of industries. Construction—one of the state’s largest and fastest growing industries—relies on immigrants for more than a third of its workers. As neighbors, business owners, taxpayers, and workers, immigrants are an integral part of Texas’s diverse and thriving communities and make extensive contributions that benefit all.

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

  • In 2018, 4.9 million immigrants (foreign-born individuals) comprised 17 percent of the population.
  • Texas was home to 2.3 million women, 2.3 million men, and 319,331 children who were immigrants.
  • The top countries of origin for immigrants were Mexico (51 percent of immigrants), India (6 percent), El Salvador (5 percent), Vietnam (4 percent), and Honduras (3 percent).
  • In 2018, 4.5 million people in Texas (16 percent of the state’s population) were native-born Americans who had at least one immigrant parent.

More than one-third of all immigrants in Texas are naturalized U.S. citizens.

  • 1.9 million immigrants (38 percent) had naturalized as of 2018, and 957,647 immigrants were eligible to become naturalized U.S. citizens in 2017.
  • Two-thirds (66 percent) of immigrants reported speaking English “well” or “very well.”

Immigrants in Texas are concentrated at either end of the educational spectrum.

  • More than a quarter (26 percent) of adult immigrants had a college degree or more education in 2018, while over a third (37 percent) had less than a high school diploma. 

Education Level

Share (%) of All Immigrants

Share (%) of All Natives

College degree or more

26

32

Some college

16

32

High school diploma only

20

26

Less than a high school diploma

37

10

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

1.4 million U.S. citizens in Texas live with at least one family member who is undocumented.

  • 1.6 million undocumented immigrants comprised 33 percent of the immigrant population and 6 percent of the total state population in 2016.
  • 2.7 million people in Texas, including 1.4 million U.S. citizens, lived with at least one undocumented family member between 2010 and 2014.
  • During the same period, about one in seven children in the state was a U.S. citizen living with at least one undocumented family member (1 million children in total).

Texas is home to over 107,000 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients.

  • 106,090 active DACA recipients lived in Texas as of March 2020, while DACA has been granted to 134,058 people in total since 2012.
  • As of 2019, 56 percent of DACA-eligible immigrants in Texas had applied for DACA.
  • An additional 55,000 residents of the state would satisfy all but the educational requirements for DACA, and another 7,000 would become eligible as they grew older.

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

  • 3.1 million immigrant workers comprised 22 percent of the labor force in 2018. 
  • Immigrant workers were most numerous in the following industries:

Industry

Number of Immigrant Workers

Construction

517,957

Manufacturing

361,818

Health Care and Social Assistance

353,961

Accommodation and Food Services

336,864

Retail Trade

332,182

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

37

Other Services (except Public Administration)

28

Administrative & Support; Waste Management; and Remediation Services

28

Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing, and Hunting

27

Manufacturing

27

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 Texas 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

469,689

Building and Grounds Cleaning & Maintenance

305,269

Sales and Related

285,774

Transportation and Material Moving

277,412

Food Preparation and Serving Related

269,968

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

46

Construction and Extraction

42

Farming, Fishing, and Forestry

39

Production

32

Computer and Mathematical

27

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 8 percent of Texas’s workforce in 2016.

Immigrants in Texas have contributed tens of billions of dollars in taxes.

As consumers, immigrants add well over one-hundred billion dollars to Texas’s economy.

  • Texas residents in immigrant-led households had $112.8 billion in spending power (after-tax income) in 2018.

Immigrant entrepreneurs in Texas generate over ten billion dollars in business revenue.

  • 429,414 immigrant business owners accounted for 29 percent of all self-employed Texas residents in 2018 and generated $10.8 billion in business income.
  • In the following Texas metropolitan areas in 2018, at least one-fifth of business owners were immigrants. Immigrants accounted for:
    • 20 percent of business owners in the Austin/Round Rock metro area,
    • 27 percent in Dallas/Fort Worth/Arlington,
    • 51 percent in Houston/Baytown/Sugar Land, and
    • 24 percent in San Antonio.

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