Immigrants in the United States

August 6, 2020

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 citizens. Nearly 75 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 a third of all farming, fishing, and forestry workers—as well as nearly 25 percent of those working in computer and math sciences. The highest number of immigrants work in the health care and social service 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 2018, 44.7 million immigrants (foreign-born individuals) comprised 14 percent of the national population.
  • The United States was home to 21.9 million women, 20.3 million men, and 2.5 million children who were immigrants.
  • The top countries of origin for immigrants were Mexico (25 percent of immigrants), India (6 percent), China (5 percent), the Philippines (4 percent), and El Salvador (3 percent).
  • In 2018, 39.4 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.

  • 22.6 million immigrants (51 percent) had naturalized as of 2018, and 8.4 million immigrants were eligible to become naturalized U.S. citizens in 2017.
  • The majority of immigrants (74 percent) reported speaking English “well” or “very well.”

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

  • Nearly a third of adult immigrants had a college degree or more education in 2018, 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

32

33

Some college

19

31

High school diploma only

22

28

Less than a high-school diploma

27

8

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

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

  • 10.7 million undocumented immigrants comprised 24 percent of the immigrant population and 3 percent of the total U.S. population in 2016.
  • 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 over 652,000 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients.

  • Approximately 643,560 active DACA recipients lived in the United States and its territories as of March 2020, while DACA has been granted to approximately 825,998 people in total since 2012.
  • As of 2019, 49 percent of DACA-eligible immigrants in the United States had applied for DACA.
  • An additional 363,000 people in the United States would satisfy all but the educational requirements for DACA, and another 39,000 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.

  • 28.4 million immigrant workers comprised 17 percent of the U.S. labor force in 2018.
  • Immigrant workers were most numerous in the following U.S. industries:

Industry

Number of Immigrant Workers

Health Care and Social Assistance

4,124,557

Manufacturing

3,437,569

Accommodation and Food Services

3,022,991

Retail Trade

2,979,800

Construction

2,858,953

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 U.S. industries:

Industry

Immigrant Share (%)
(of all industry workers)

Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing, and Hunting

26

Construction

23

Administrative Support and Waste Management and Remediation Services

22

Other Services (except Public Administration)

21

Accommodation and Food Services

20

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 U.S. workforce in a range of occupations.

  • In 2018, immigrant workers were most numerous in the following occupation groups:

Occupation Category

Number of Immigrant Workers

Transportation and Material Moving Occupations

2,683,238

Sales and Related Occupations

2,580,721

Management Occupations

2,529,218

Office and Administrative Support Occupations

2,494,354

Construction and Extraction Occupations

2,487,351

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)

Farming, Fishing, and Forestry Occupations

38

Building and Grounds Cleaning and Maintenance Occupations

31

Construction and Extraction Occupations

25

Computer and Mathematical Occupations

24

Life, Physical, and Social Science Occupations

22

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 5 percent of the workforce in 2016.

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

  • Immigrant-led households across the United States contributed a total of $308.6 billion in federal taxes and $150 billion in combined state and local taxes in 2018.
  • Undocumented immigrants in the United States paid an estimated $20.1 billion in federal taxes and $11.8 billion in combined state and local taxes in 2018.
  • DACA recipients and those meeting the eligibility requirements for DACA paid an estimated $1.7 billion in combined state and local taxes in 2018.

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

  • In the United States, residents of immigrant-led households had $1.2 trillion in collective spending power (after-tax income) in 2018.

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

  • 3.6 million immigrant business owners accounted for 21 percent of all self-employed U.S. residents in 2018 and generated $84.3 billion in business income.

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