New Americans in Alaska
The Political and Economic Power of Immigrants, Latinos, and Asians in the Frontier State
Immigrants, Latinos, and Asians account for growing shares of the economy and electorate in Alaska. Immigrants (the foreign-born) make up 7.1% of the state’s population, and more than half of them are naturalized U.S. citizens who are eligible to vote. “New Americans”—immigrants and the children of immigrants—account for 7.3% of registered voters in the state. Immigrants are not only integral to the state’s economy as workers, but also account for billions of dollars in tax revenue and consumer purchasing power. Moreover, Latinos and Asians (both foreign-born and native-born) wield $3.3 billion in consumer purchasing power. Asian-owned businesses had sales and receipts of $477 million and employed more than 4,000 people at last count. Immigrant, Latino, and Asian workers, consumers, and entrepreneurs are integral to Alaska’s economy and tax base—and they are an electoral force with which every politician must reckon.
Immigrants and their children are growing shares of Alaska’s population and electorate.
- The foreign-born share of Alaska’s population rose from 4.5% in 1990, to 5.9% in 2000, to 7.1% in 2013, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Alaska was home to 51,968 immigrants in 2013.
- 53.5% of immigrants (or 27,796 people) in Alaska were naturalized U.S. citizens in 2013—meaning that they are eligible to vote.
- Unauthorized immigrants comprised less than 1.8% of the state’s population (or around 15,000 people) in 2012, according to a report by the Pew Hispanic Center.
- 7.3% (or 26,395) of registered voters in Alaska were “New Americans”—naturalized citizens or the U.S.-born children of immigrants who were raised during the current era of immigration from Latin America and Asia which began in 1965—according to an analysis of 2012 Census Bureau data by the American Immigration Council.
1 in 9 Alaskans are Latino or Asian.
- The Latino share of Alaska’s population grew from 3.2% in 1990, to 4.1% in 2000, to 6.6% (or 48,501 people) in 2013. The Asian share of the population grew from 3.2% in 1990, to 4.0% in 2000, to 5.7% (or 41,775 people) in 2013, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
- Asians accounted for 3.5% (or 10,000) of Alaska voters in the 2012 elections, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
- In Alaska, 92.2% of children with immigrant parents were U.S. citizens in 2009, according to the Urban Institute.
- In 2009, 94.6% of children in Asian families in Alaska were U.S. citizens, as were 96.2% of children in Latino families.
Immigrant, Latino, and Asian entrepreneurs and consumers add billions of dollars and thousands of jobs to Alaska’s economy.
- The 2014 purchasing power of Latinos in Alaska totaled $1.6 billion—an increase of 588% since 1990. Asian buying power totaled $1.7 billion—an increase of 465% since 1990, according to the Selig Center for Economic Growth at the University of Georgia.
- Alaska’s 2,148 Asian-owned businesses had sales and receipts of $477.4 million and employed 4,219 people in 2007, the last year for which data is available.
- From 2006 to 2010, there were 3,394 new immigrant business owners in Alaska, and new immigrant business owners had total net business income of $160 million (which is 7.8% of all net business income in the state), according to Robert Fairlie of the University of California, Santa Cruz.
- In 2010, 9.8% of all business owners in Alaska were foreign-born, according to the Fiscal Policy Institute.
Immigrants are integral to Alaska’s economy as workers and taxpayers.
- Immigrants comprised 8.9% of the state’s workforce in 2013 (or 35,486 workers), according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
- Latinos in Alaska paid $186 million in federal taxes and $37 million in state/local taxes in 2013, according to the Partnership for a New American Economy. In particular, foreign-born Latinos paid $9.2 million in federal taxes and $5.4 million in state/local taxes in 2013.Unauthorized immigrants in Alaska paid $3.4 million in state and local taxes in 2012, including $1.6 million in sales taxes and $1.9 million in property taxes, according to data from the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy.
- The federal tax contribution of Alaska’s Latino population included $121.6 million to Social Security and $28.4 million to Medicare in 2013. In particular, foreign-born Latinos contributed $12.7 million to Social Security and $3.0 million to Medicare in 2013.
- Were unauthorized immigrants in Alaska to have lawful permanent residence, they would pay $3.8 million in state and local taxes, including $1.7 million in sales taxes and $2.1 million in property taxes.
- Unauthorized immigrants comprised less than 2.4% of the state’s workforce (or 10,000 workers) in 2012, according to a report by the Pew Hispanic Center.
- If all unauthorized immigrants were removed from Alaska, the state would lose $484.7 million in economic activity, $215.3 million in gross state product, and approximately 1,980 jobs, even accounting for adequate market adjustment time, according to a report by the Perryman Group.
Immigrants contribute to Alaska’s economy as students.
- Alaska’s 542 foreign students contributed $13.7 million to the state’s economy in tuition, fees, and living expenses for the 2013-2014 academic year, according to NAFSA: Association of International Educators.
- Foreign students also contribute to innovation in Alaska. In 2009, “non-resident aliens” comprised 28.7% of master’s degrees and 26.3% of doctorate degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields, according to the Partnership for a New American Economy.
Immigrants excel educationally.
- The number of immigrants in Alaska with a college degree increased by 40.5% between 2000 and 2011, according to data from the Migration Policy Institute.
- In Alaska, 90.9% of children with immigrant parents were considered “English proficient” as of 2009, according to data from the Urban Institute.
- The English proficiency rate among Asian children was 85.2%, while for Latino children it was 98.8%, as of 2009.