Immigrants in Washington

October 4, 2017

Washington—the state with the second-highest food production in the nation—relies heavily on its growing immigrant population. While roughly one in seven Washington residents is foreign-born, over half of the state’s farmers, fishers, and foresters are immigrants. As workers, business owners, taxpayers, and neighbors, immigrants are an integral part of Washington’s diverse and thriving communities and make extensive contributions that benefit all.

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

  • In 2015, 980,158 immigrants (foreign-born individuals) comprised 13.7 percent of the state’s population.
  • Washington was home to 474,417 women, 445,423 men, and 60,318 children who were immigrants.
  • The top countries of origin for immigrants were Mexico (24.2 percent of immigrants), the Philippines (7.4 percent), India (6.7 percent), China (6.1 percent), and Vietnam (5.2 percent).
  • In 2016, 937,578 people in Washington (13.2 percent of the state’s population) were native-born Americans who had at least one immigrant parent.

More than 45 percent of immigrants in Washington are naturalized U.S. citizens.

  • 458,313 immigrants (46.8 percent) had naturalized as of 2015, and 184,054 immigrants were eligible to become naturalized U.S. citizens in 2015.
  • Over three-quarters (76.8 percent) of immigrants reported speaking English “well” or “very well.” 

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

  • One in three adult immigrants had a college degree or more education in 2015, while one in four had less than a high school diploma.

Education Level

Share (%) of All Immigrants

Share (%) of All Natives

College degree or more

34.7

34.1

Some college

21.4

36.1

High school diploma only

20.2

23.7

Less than a high-school diploma

23.7

6.1

Over 170,000 U.S. citizens in Washington live with at least one family member who is undocumented.

  • 250,000 undocumented immigrants comprised 27 percent of the immigrant population and 3.6 percent of the total state population in 2014.
  • 351,016 people in Washington, including 151,209 born in the United States, lived with at least one undocumented family member between 2010 and 2014.
  • During the same period, 1 in 12 children in the state was a U.S. citizen living with at least one undocumented family member (130,326 children in total).

More than 16,000 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients live in Washington State.

  • In 2016, 73 percent of DACA-eligible immigrants in Washington, or 19,581 people, had applied for DACA.
  • An additional 10,000 residents of the state satisfied all but the educational requirements for DACA, and another 7,000 would be eligible as they grew older.

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

  • 621,793 immigrant workers comprised 17.2 percent of the labor force in 2015.
  • Immigrant workers were most numerous in the following industries:

Industry

Number of Immigrant Workers

Health Care and Social Assistance

90,011

Manufacturing

78,637

Retail Trade

75,524

Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services

68,419

Accommodation and Food Services

65,894

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)

Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing & Hunting

40.4

Accommodation and Food Services

21.2

Administrative & Support; Waste Management; and Remediation Services

20.1

Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services

19.7

Wholesale Trade

19.0

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 Washington workforce in a range of occupations.

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

Occupation Category

Number of Immigrant Workers

Management

59,764

Office and Administrative Support

57,388

Sales and Related

54,673

Building and Grounds Cleaning & Maintenance

51,087

Transportation and Material Moving

50,204

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

53.2

Building and Grounds Cleaning & Maintenance

30.9

Computer and Mathematical Sciences

28.6

Production

22.2

Personal Care and Service

19.8

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 state’s workforce in 2014.

Immigrants in Washington have contributed billions of dollars in taxes.

  • Immigrant-led households in the state paid $5.7 billion in federal taxes and $2.4 billion in state and local taxes in 2014.
  • Undocumented immigrants in Washington paid an estimated $316.6 million in state and local taxes in 2014. Their contribution would rise to $348.3 million if they could receive legal status.
  • DACA recipients in Washington paid an estimated $51.3 million in state and local taxes in 2016.

As consumers, immigrants add billions of dollars to Washington’s economy.

  • Washington residents in immigrant-led households had $22.8 billion in spending power (after-tax income) in 2014.

Immigrant entrepreneurs in Washington generate billions of dollars in business revenue.

  • 65,036 immigrant business owners accounted for 17.2 percent of all self-employed Washington residents in 2015 and generated $1.6 billion in business income.
  • In 2015, immigrants accounted for 27.7 percent of business owners in the Seattle/Tacoma/Bellevue metropolitan area and 23.2 percent in the Portland/Vancouver/Beaverton metro area (which stretches from Oregon through Washington).

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