Immigrants in the United States

September 21, 2021

The United States was built, in part, by immigrants—and the nation has long been the beneficiary of the new energy and ingenuity that immigrants bring. Today, 14 percent of the nation’s residents are foreign-born, over half of whom are naturalized U.S. citizens. Nearly 70 percent of all immigrants, who come from diverse backgrounds across the globe, report speaking English well or very well.

Immigrants make up significant shares of the U.S. workforce in a range of industries, accounting for over two-fifths of all farming, fishing, and forestry workers—as well as one quarter of those working in computer and math sciences. The highest number of immigrants work in the health care and social assistance industry, with over 4 million immigrants providing these services. As workers, business owners, taxpayers, and neighbors, immigrants are an integral part of the country’s diverse and thriving communities and make extensive contributions that benefit all.

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

  • In 2019, 44.9 million immigrants (foreign-born individuals) comprised 14 percent of the national population.
  • The United States was home to 22.0 million women, 20.4 million men, and 2.5 million children who were immigrants.
  • The top countries of origin for immigrants were Mexico (24 percent of immigrants), India (6 percent), China (5 percent), the Philippines (4.5 percent), and El Salvador (3 percent).
  • In 2019, 38.3 million people in the United States (12 percent of the country’s population) were native-born Americans who had at least one immigrant parent.

Over half of all immigrants in the United States are naturalized citizens.

  • As of 2019, 23.2 million immigrants (52 percent) had naturalized and 8.1 million immigrants were eligible to become naturalized U.S. citizens.
  • The majority of immigrants (69 percent) reported speaking English “well” or “very well.”

Immigrants in the United States are concentrated at both ends of the educational spectrum.

  • A third of adult immigrants had a college degree or more education in 2019, while over a fourth had less than a high school diploma.

Education Level

Share (%) of All Immigrants

Share (%) of All Natives

College degree or more

33

33

Some college

19

31

High school diploma only

22

28

Less than a high-school diploma

26

8

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2019 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates.

Millions of U.S. citizens live with at least one family member who is undocumented.

  • 10.3 million undocumented immigrants comprised 23 percent of the immigrant population and 3 percent of the total U.S. population in 2019.
  • 6.1 million U.S.-citizen children under the age of 18 lived with an undocumented family member as of 2018, including 4.4 million who lived with at least one undocumented parent.
  • 16.7 million people, including 7 million born in the United States, lived with at least one undocumented family member between 2010 and 2014.

The United States is home to over 590,000 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients.

  • Approximately 590,070 active DACA recipients lived in the United States and its territories as of June 30, 2021, while DACA has been granted to approximately 832,881 people in total since 2012.
  • As of 2020, approximately 44 percent of DACA-eligible immigrants in the United States had applied for DACA.
  • An additional 384,000 people in the United States would satisfy all but the educational requirements for DACA, and another 14,000 would be eligible as they grew older.

One in six U.S. workers is an immigrant, together making up a vital part of the country’s labor force in a range of industries.

  • 28.5 million immigrant workers comprised 17 percent of the U.S. labor force in 2019.
  • Immigrant workers were most numerous in the following U.S. industries:

Industry

Number of Immigrant Workers

Health Care and Social Assistance

4,174,133

Manufacturing

3,387,894

Accommodation and Food Services

2,970,435

Construction

2,948,808

Retail Trade

2,886,515

Source: Analysis of the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community Survey 1-year PUMS data by the American Immigration Council.

  • The largest shares of immigrant workers were in the following U.S. industries:

Industry

Immigrant Share (%)
(of all industry workers)

Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing, and Hunting

26

Administrative Support and Waste Management and Remediation Services

23

Construction

22

Other Services (except Public Administration)

20

Transportation and warehousing

19

Accommodation and Food Services

19

Source: Analysis of the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community Survey 1-year PUMS data by the American Immigration Council.

Immigrants are an integral part of the U.S. workforce in a range of occupations.

  • In 2019, immigrant workers were most numerous in the following occupation groups:

Occupation Category

Number of Immigrant Workers

Management Occupations

2,689,819

Transportation and Material Moving Occupations

2,665,709

Sales and Related Occupations

2,481,724

Construction and Extraction Occupations

2,476,967

Office and Administrative Support Occupations

2,382,252

Source: Analysis of the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 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)

Farming, Fishing, and Forestry Occupations

41

Building and Grounds Cleaning and Maintenance Occupations

31

Computer and Mathematical Occupations

25

Construction and Extraction Occupations

25

Healthcare Support Occupations

21

Source: Analysis of the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community Survey 1-year PUMS data by the American Immigration Council.

  • Undocumented immigrants comprised 5 percent of the workforce in 2017.

Immigrants in the United States contribute billions of dollars in taxes.

  • Immigrant-led households across the United States contributed a total of $330.7 billion in federal taxes and $161.7 billion in combined state and local taxes in 2019.
  • Households headed by undocumented immigrants in the United States paid an estimated $18.9 billion in federal taxes and $11.7 billion in combined state and local taxes in 2019.
  • Households headed by DACA recipients and those meeting the eligibility requirements for DACA paid an estimated $3.4 billion in federal taxes and $2.7 billion in combined state and local taxes in 2019.

As consumers, immigrants add over a trillion dollars to the U.S. economy.

  • In the United States, residents of immigrant-led households had $1.3 trillion in collective spending power (after-tax income) in 2019.

Immigrant entrepreneurs in the United States generate tens of billions of dollars in business revenue.

  • 3.2 million immigrant business owners accounted for 22 percent of all self-employed U.S. residents in 2019 and generated $86.3 billion in business income.

Most Read

  • Publications
  • Blog Posts
  • Past:
  • Trending