New Americans in Oklahoma
The Political and Economic Power of Immigrants, Latinos, and Asians in the Sooner State
Immigrants, Latinos, and Asians account for growing shares of the economy and population in Oklahoma. 5.7% of Oklahomans are immigrants (foreign-born), 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 2.6% 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 $11 billion in consumer purchasing power, and the businesses they own had sales and receipts of $3.5 billion and employed more than 24,000 people at last count. Immigrant, Latino, and Asian workers, consumers, and entrepreneurs are integral to Oklahoma’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 Oklahoma’s population and electorate.
- The foreign-born share of Oklahoma’s population rose from 2.1% in 1990, to 3.8% in 2000, to 5.7% in 2013, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Oklahoma was home to 218,432 immigrants in 2013, which is more than the total population of Richmond, Virginia.
- 35% of immigrants (or 76,353 people) in Oklahoma were naturalized U.S. citizens in 2013—meaning that they are eligible to vote.
- Unauthorized immigrants comprised roughly 2.6% of the state’s population (or 100,000 people) in 2012, according to a report by the Pew Hispanic Center.
- 2.6% (or 46,438) of registered voters in Oklahoma 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.
Nearly 1 in 9 Oklahomans are Latino or Asian.
- The Latino share of Oklahoma’s population grew from 2.7% in 1990, to 5.2% in 2000, to 9.6% (or 369,656 people) in 2013. The Asian share of the population grew from 1.0% in 1990, to 1.4% in 2000, to 1.9% (or 71,433 people) in 2013, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
- Latinos accounted for 2.5% (or 36,000) of Oklahoma voters in the 2012 elections, and Asians accounted for 1.5% (or 22,000) according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
- In Oklahoma, 89.1% of children with immigrant parents were U.S. citizens in 2009, according to data from the Urban Institute.
- In 2009, 94.2% of children in Asian families in Oklahoma were U.S. citizens, as were 92.7% of children in Latino families.
Immigrant, Latino, and Asian entrepreneurs and consumers add billions of dollars and tens of thousands of jobs to Oklahoma’s economy.
- The 2014 purchasing power of Latinos in Oklahoma totaled $7.8 billion—an increase of 992% since 1990. Asian buying power totaled $3.2 billion—an increase of 652% 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 $2,440 in Oklahoma County, and $1,610 in Tulsa County.
- Oklahoma’s 7,663 Latino-owned businesses had sales and receipts of $1.7 billion and employed 8,940 people in 2007, the last year for which data is available. The state’s 6,736 Asian-owned businesses had sales and receipts of $1.8 billion and employed 15,673 people in 2007, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Survey of Business Owners.
- From 2006 to 2010, there were 11,983 new immigrant business owners in Oklahoma, and new immigrant business owners had total net business income of $477 million (which is 5.3% of all net business income in the state), according to Robert Fairlie of the University of California, Santa Cruz.
- In 2010, 5.6% of all business owners in Oklahoma were foreign-born, according to the Fiscal Policy Institute.
- In the Oklahoma City metropolitan area, 9.1% of business owners were foreign-born in 2013, according to the Fiscal Policy Institute and Americans Society/Council of the Americas. Furthermore, 23.9% of “Main Street” business owners—owners of businesses in the retail, accommodation and food services, and neighborhood services sectors—in the Oklahoma City metro area were foreign-born in 2013.
Immigrants are integral to Oklahoma’s economy as workers and taxpayers.
- Immigrants comprised 7.8% of the state’s workforce in 2013 (or 144,869 workers), according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
- Latinos in Oklahoma paid $734 million in federal taxes and $373 million in state/local taxes in 2013 according to the Partnership for a New American Economy. In particular, foreign-born Latinos paid $310 million in federal taxes and $186 million in state/local taxes in 2013.Unauthorized immigrants comprised roughly 3.7% of the state’s workforce (or 65,000 workers) in 2012, according to a report by the Pew Hispanic Center.
- The federal tax contribution of Oklahoma’s Latino population included $553 million to Social Security and $129 million to Medicare in 2013. In particular, foreign-born Latinos contributed $263 million to Social Security and $62 million to Medicare in 2013.
- If one half of all the state’s immigrant labor force (roughly 50,000 people) was removed, Oklahoma’s economy would be reduced by 1.32% in the short run—a reduction of nearly $1.8 billion relative to 2006 production levels, according to a 2008 study by the Economic Impact Group.
- If all unauthorized immigrants were removed from Oklahoma, the state would lose $580.3 million in economic activity, $257.8 million in gross state product, and approximately 4,680 jobs, even accounting for adequate market adjustment time, according to a report by the Perryman Group.
Unauthorized immigrants pay taxes.
- Unauthorized immigrants in Oklahoma paid $76.5 million in state and local taxes in 2012, according to data from the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy, which includes $52.4 million in sales taxes, $9.6 million in personal income taxes, and $14.5 million in property taxes.
- Were unauthorized immigrants in Oklahoma to have lawful permanent residence, they would pay $93.3 million in state and local taxes, including $57.7 million in sales taxes, $19.7 million in personal income taxes, and $15.9 million in property taxes.
Immigrants are integral to Oklahoma’s economy as students.
- Oklahoma’s 8,913 foreign students contributed $219.9 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 Oklahoma’s metropolitan areas. From 2008 to 2012, according to the Brookings Institution, 8,576 foreign students paid $113 million in tuition and $70 million in living costs in the Oklahoma City metropolitan area. In the Tulsa metro area, 2,164 foreign students paid $47 million in tuition and $22 million in living costs.
- Foreign students also contribute to innovation in Oklahoma. In 2009, “non-resident aliens” comprised 49.4% of master’s degrees and 55.4% 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 Oklahoma, 31.7% of foreign-born persons who were naturalized U.S. citizens in 2011 had a bachelor’s or higher degree, compared to 13.7% of noncitizens. At the same time, only 22.1% of naturalized citizens lacked a high-school diploma, compared to 50.6% of noncitizens.
- The number of immigrants in Oklahoma with a college degree increased by 57.3% between 2000 and 2011, according to data from the Migration Policy Institute.
- In Oklahoma, 85.7% 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 Oklahoma was 90.1%, while for Latino children it was 85.1%, as of 2009.