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September 30, 2014

Contributing to the New Economy: New data show immigrants continue to be an asset to Virginia’s economy

Immigrant households are significant contributors to Virginia’s economy and help the state outperform the country as a whole in education, labor force participation, and household income.

Almost 40 percent of foreign-born Virginians age 25 or over have a bachelor’s degree, according to recently released 2013 American Community Survey data. That’s a much higher share than among adults in the U.S. as a whole, whether native-born or foreign-born.

The high educational levels of foreign-born Virginians, combined with that of native-born residents, helps attract more of the well-paying, knowledge-economy jobs that Virginia needs to make up for a decline in well-paying jobs in federal contracting and other government services during this era of federal belt tightening.

And Virginia immigrants put their talents to work in our economy at high rates. Over 70 percent of foreign-born adult Virginians either were working or looking for work in 2013. Many immigrants have created jobs in Virginia through starting or operating small businesses. In fact, foreign-born residents drove 40 percent of the growth in entrepreneurship in Virginia between 2000 and 2010.

The high levels of education, labor force participation, and entrepreneurship among immigrant Virginians pays off. While immigrants in the U.S. as a whole tend to have lower incomes than native-born households, those in the commonwealth have higher median incomes than non-immigrant Virginia households: $68,585 compared to $62,028.

These key trends are illustrated in this updated infographic that uses data from the 2013 American Community Survey on the state of immigrants in Virginia’s economy.

Of course, as with other Virginians, not all immigrants in the commonwealth are able to find secure work that pays them enough to support their families and invest in their children’s future. But it’s worth remembering in this era of conflicting views about immigration policy that Virginia’s immigrant workers and families bring high levels of skill, education, and entrepreneurial energy to the state’s economy, and that benefits all of us, no matter where we were born.

Levi Goren

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