New Americans in Kentucky
The Political and Economic Power of Immigrants, Latinos, and Asians in the Bluegrass State
Immigrants, Latinos, and Asians account for growing shares of Kentucky’s economy and population. Immigrants (the foreign-born) make up 3.4% of the state’s population, and more than one-third of them are naturalized U.S. citizens who are eligible to vote. “New Americans”—immigrants and the children of immigrants—account for 2.3% of registered voters in the state. Immigrants are not only important 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 $5.5 billion in consumer purchasing power, and the businesses they own had sales and receipts of over $3 billion and employed more than 23,000 people at last count. Immigrant, Latino, and Asian workers, consumers, and entrepreneurs are integral to Kentucky’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 Kentucky’s population and electorate.
- The foreign-born share of Kentucky’s population rose from 0.9% in 1990, to 2.0% in 2000, to 3.4% in 2013, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Kentucky was home to 149,016 immigrants in 2013, which is more than the total population of Springfield, Illinois.
- 37.6% of immigrants (or 56,085 people) in Kentucky were naturalized U.S. citizens in 2013—meaning that they are eligible to vote.
- Unauthorized immigrants comprised roughly 0.8% of the state’s population (or 35,000 people) in 2012, according to a report by the Pew Hispanic Center.
- 2.3% (or 52,602) of registered voters in Kentucky 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.
Latinos and Asians make up 4.1% of Kentucky’s population.
- The Latino share of Kentucky’s population grew from 0.6% in 1990, to 1.5% in 2000, to 3.3% (or 143,091 people) in 2013. The Asian share of the population grew from 0.5% in 1990, to 0.7% in 2000, to 1.2% (or 53,187 people) in 2013, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
- In Kentucky, 83.7% of children with immigrant parents were U.S. citizens in 2009, according to data from the Urban Institute.
- In 2009, 81.6% of children in Asian families in Kentucky were U.S. citizens, as were 89.3% of children in Latino families.
Immigrant, Latino, and Asian entrepreneurs and consumers add billions of dollars and thousands of jobs to Kentucky’s economy.
- The 2014 purchasing power of Latinos in Kentucky totaled $2.8 billion—an increase of 1,144% since 1990. Asian buying power totaled $2.6 billion—an increase of 807% since 1990, according to the Selig Center for Economic Growth at the University of Georgia.
- Immigration boosts housing values in communities. From 2000 to 2010, according to the Americas Society/Council of the Americas, the value added by immigration to the price of the average home was $2,092 in Jefferson County.
- Kentucky’s 5,559 Asian-owned businesses had sales and receipts of $2.1 billion and employed 16,941 people in 2007, the last year for which data is available. The state’s 3,663 Latino-owned businesses had sales and receipts of $906.9 million and employed 6,705 people in 2007, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Survey of Business Owners.
- From 2006 to 2010, there were 6,143 new immigrant business owners in Kentucky, and they had total net business income of $451 million, which makes up 5.4% of all net business income in the state, according to Robert Fairlie of the University of California, Santa Cruz.
- In 2010, 4.6% of all business owners in Kentucky were foreign-born, according to the Fiscal Policy Institute. In 2013, 6.1% of business owners in the Louisville metropolitan area were foreign-born, according to the Fiscal Policy Institute and Americas Society/Council of the Americas. Furthermore, 14.1% of “Main Street” business owners—owners of businesses in the retail, accommodation and food services, and neighborhood services sectors—in the Louisville metro area were foreign-born in 2013.
Immigrants contribute to Kentucky’s economy as workers and taxpayers.
- Immigrants comprised 4.5% of the state’s workforce in 2013 (or 92,803 workers), according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
- Immigrants contributed more than $30 million in state sales and excise taxes to Kentucky in 2000, according a 2002 report by the Legislative Research Commission.
- Latinos in Kentucky paid $301 million in federal taxes and $158 million in state/local taxes in 2013, according to the Partnership for a New American Economy. In particular, foreign-born Latinos paid $143 million in federal taxes and $84 million in state/local taxes.
- The federal tax contribution of Kentucky’s Latino population included $212 million to Social Security and $49 million to Medicare in 2013. Foreign-born Latinos contributed $110 million to Social Security and $26 million to Medicare that year.
Unauthorized immigrants contribute to Kentucky’s economy as workers, consumers, and taxpayers.
- Unauthorized immigrants comprised roughly 1.2% of the state’s workforce (or 25,000 workers) in 2012, according to a report by the Pew Hispanic Center.
- If all unauthorized immigrants were removed from Kentucky, the state would lose $1.7 billion in economic activity, $756.8 million in gross state product, and approximately 12,059 jobs, even accounting for adequate market adjustment time, according to a report by the Perryman Group.
- Unauthorized immigrants in Kentucky paid $38.8 million in state and local taxes in 2012, including $21.9 million in sales taxes, $11.5 million in personal income taxes, and $5.4 million in property taxes, according to data from the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy.
- Were unauthorized immigrants in Kentucky to have lawful permanent residence, they would pay $55.3 million in state and local taxes, including $24.1 million in sales taxes, $25.3 million in personal income taxes, and $6 million in property taxes.
Immigrants contribute to Kentucky’s economy as students.
- Kentucky’s 7,370 foreign students contributed $192.5 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 contribute to Kentucky’s metropolitan areas. From 2008 to 2012, according to the Brookings Institution, 2,078 foreign students paid $29.9 million in tuition and $16.6 million in living costs in the Louisville/Jefferson County metropolitan area.
- Foreign students also contribute to innovation in Illinois. In 2009, “non-resident aliens” comprised 38.9% of master’s degrees and 48.9% of doctorate degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields, according to the Partnership for a New American Economy.
Naturalized citizens excel educationally.
- In Kentucky, 38% of foreign-born persons who were naturalized U.S. citizens in 2011 had a bachelor’s or higher degree, compared to 29.1% of noncitizens. At the same time, only 18.8% of naturalized citizens lacked a high-school diploma, compared to 31.2% of noncitizens.
- The number of immigrants in Kentucky with a college degree increased by 79.9% between 2000 and 2011, according to data from the Migration Policy Institute.
- In Kentucky, 80.6% 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 in Kentucky was 85.3%, while for Latino children it was 82.4%, as of 2009.