Immigrants in West Virginia

July 7, 2020

West Virginia is home to a small but vital community of immigrants, with many hailing from Mexico and China. While foreign-born residents account for a small share of the state’s total population, immigrants help support West Virginia and its economy. Immigrants account for 18 percent of workers in farming, fishing, and forestry occupations, and 11 percent in the life, physical, and social sciences. Most immigrants in West Virginia have pursued higher education. As neighbors, business owners, taxpayers, and workers, immigrants are an integral part of West Virginia’s diverse and thriving communities and make extensive contributions that benefit all.

Two percent of West Virginia residents are immigrants, while another 2 percent of residents are native-born U.S. citizens with at least one immigrant parent.

  • In 2018, 27,605 immigrants (foreign-born individuals) comprised 2 percent of the population.
  • West Virginia was home to 13,112 women, 12,168 men, and 2,325 children who were immigrants.
  • The top countries of origin for immigrants were Mexico (11 percent of immigrants), China (9 percent), India (7 percent), the Philippines (6 percent), and Germany (5 percent).
  • In 2018, 31,448 people in West Virginia (2 percent of the state’s population) were native-born Americans who had at least one immigrant parent.

More than half of all immigrants in West Virginia are naturalized U.S. citizens.

  • 14,303 immigrants (52 percent) had naturalized as of 2018, and 6,993 immigrants were eligible to become naturalized U.S. citizens in 2017.
  • More than nine in ten (93 percent) immigrants reported speaking English “well” or “very well.”

Immigrants in West Virginia tend to be college educated.

  • More than two-fifths (42 percent) of adult immigrants had a college degree or more education in 2018, while 12 percent had less than a high school diploma. 

Education Level

Share (%) of All Immigrants

Share (%) of All Natives

College degree or more

42

21

Some college

29

27

High school diploma only

17

40

Less than a high school diploma

12

12

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

Nearly 2,000 U.S. citizens in West Virginia live with at least one family member who is undocumented.

  • Fewer than 5,000 undocumented immigrants comprised 14 percent of the immigrant population and less than half a percent of the total state population in 2016.
  • 4,941 people in West Virginia, including 1,999 U.S. citizens, lived with at least one undocumented family member between 2010 and 2014.
  • During the same period, 1,296 children in the state were U.S. citizens living with at least one undocumented family member.

West Virginia is home to dozens of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients.

  • 110 active DACA recipients lived in West Virginia as of 2019, while DACA has been granted to 381 people in total since 2012.

Immigrants are an important part of the West Virginia workforce in a range of industries.

  • 13,864 immigrant workers comprised 2 percent of the labor force in 2018.
  • Immigrant workers were most numerous in the following industries:

Industry

Number of Immigrant Workers

Educational Services

3,422

Health Care and Social Assistance

2,924

Retail Trade

1,633

Accommodation and Food Services

1,612

Manufacturing

1,092

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 industries:

Industry

Immigrant Share (%)
(of all industry workers)

Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing, and Hunting

11

Arts, Entertainment, and Recreation

5

Information

4

Educational Services

4

Other Services (except Public Administration)

3

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 West Virginia workforce in a range of occupations.

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

Occupation Category

Number of Immigrant Workers

Healthcare Practitioners and Technical

2,282

Office and Administrative Support

2,000

Educational Instruction and Library

1,912

Transportation and Material Moving

1,871

Food Preparation and Serving Related

1,719

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

18

Life, Physical, and Social Science

11

Arts, Design, Entertainment, Sports, and Media

6

Educational Instruction and Library

4

Healthcare Practitioners and Technical

3

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 less than half a percent of West Virginia’s workforce in 2016.

Immigrants in West Virginia have contributed more than a quarter-billion dollars in taxes.

As consumers, immigrants add hundreds of millions of dollars to West Virginia’s economy.

  • West Virginia residents in immigrant-led households had $628.7 million in spending power (after-tax income) in 2018.

Immigrant entrepreneurs in West Virginia generate tens of millions of dollars in business revenue.

  • 1,204 immigrant business owners accounted for 2 percent of all self-employed West Virginia residents in 2018 and generated $36.2 million in business income.

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