Immigrants in the United States

October 4, 2017

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, over 13 percent of the nation’s residents are foreign-born, almost half of whom are naturalized citizens. Nearly 72 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 41 percent of all farming, fishing, and forestry workers—as well as nearly 25 percent of those working in computer and math sciences. 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 eight U.S. residents is an immigrant, while one in nine residents is a native-born U.S. citizen with at least one immigrant parent.

  • In 2015, 43.3 million immigrants (foreign-born individuals) comprised 13.5 percent of the national population.
  • The United States was home to 21 million women, 19.8 million men, and 2.5 million children who were immigrants.
  • The top countries of origin for immigrants were Mexico (27.8 percent of immigrants), India (5.5 percent), China (4.8 percent), the Philippines (4.6 percent), and El Salvador (3.2 percent).
  • In 2016, 37.2 million people in the United States (11.7 percent of the country’s population) were native-born Americans who had at least one immigrant parent.

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

  • 20.7 million immigrants (47.8 percent) had naturalized as of 2015, and 8.4 million immigrants were eligible to become naturalized U.S. citizens in 2015.
  • The majority of immigrants (71.8 percent) reported speaking English “well” or “very well.” 

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

  • More than one in four adult immigrants had a college degree or more education in 2015, while almost the same share had less than a high school diploma.

Education Level

Share (%) of All Immigrants

Share (%) of All Natives

College degree or more

29.4

30.9

Some college

18.7

31.1

High school diploma only

22.5

28.6

Less than a high-school diploma

29.3

9.4

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

  • 11.1 million undocumented immigrants comprised 26 percent of the immigrant population and 3.5 percent of the total U.S. population in 2014.
  • 16.7 million people, including 7 million born in the United States, lived in the country with at least one undocumented family member between 2010 and 2014.
  • During the same period, 1 in 12 children in the country was a U.S. citizen living with at least one undocumented family member (5.9 million children in total).

The United States is home to nearly 690,000 active Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients.

  • Approximately 689,800 active DACA recipients live in the United States, while DACA has been granted to about 800,000 people in total since 2012.
  • As of 2016, 68 percent of DACA-eligible immigrants in the United States, or 886,814 people, had applied for DACA.
  • An additional 398,000 people in the United States satisfied all but the educational requirements for DACA, and another 228,000 would be eligible as they grew older.

Nearly 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.

  • 27.2 million immigrant workers comprised 16.9 percent of the U.S. labor force in 2015.
  • Immigrant workers were most numerous in the following U.S. industries:

Industry

Number of Immigrant Workers

Health Care and Social Assistance

3,854,400

Manufacturing

3,359,742

Accommodation and Food Services

3,171,569

Retail Trade

2,905,527

Construction

2,656,500

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 U.S. industries:

Industry

Immigrant Share (%)
(of all industry workers)

Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing & Hunting

27.4

Construction

22.2

Administrative & Support; Waste Management; and Remediation Services

22.0

Accommodation and Food Services

20.9

Other Services (except Public Administration)

20.6

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 U.S. workforce in a range of occupations.

  • In 2015, immigrant workers were most numerous in the following occupation groups:

Occupation Category

Number of Immigrant Workers

Office and Administrative Support

2,692,238

Sales and Related

2,616,933

Building and Grounds Cleaning & Maintenance

2,432,692

Construction and Extraction

2,394,349

Management

2,364,294

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)

Farming, Fishing, and Forestry

41.3

Building and Grounds Cleaning & Maintenance

31.2

Construction and Extraction

24.6

Computer and Mathematical Sciences

24.4

Life, Physical, and Social Sciences

21.6

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

  • Undocumented immigrants comprised 5 percent of the workforce in 2014.

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

  • Immigrant-led households across the United States contributed a total of $223.6 billion in federal taxes and $104.6 billion in combined state and local taxes in 2014.
  • Undocumented immigrants in the United States paid an estimated $11.7 billion in combined state and local taxes in 2014. Their estimated contribution would rise to $13.9 billion if they could receive legal status.
  • DACA recipients paid an estimated $2 billion in combined state and local taxes in 2016.

As consumers, immigrants add hundreds of billions of dollars to the U.S. economy.

  • In the United States, residents of immigrant-led households had $926.9 billion in collective spending power (after-tax income) in 2014.

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

  • 3.3 million immigrant business owners accounted for 20.3 percent of all self-employed U.S. residents in 2015 and generated $72.3 billion in business income.
  • In 2015, immigrants accounted for 21.9 percent of all business owners in 50 of the largest U.S. metropolitan areas.

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