In October 2012, The Commonwealth Institute of Virginia released a new report titled “Critical Assets: The State of Immigrants in Virginia’s Economy”. The study finds that immigrants in Virginia are well educated, more prosperous than their counterparts nationally, and more likely to be business owners than native-born Virginians.
The Richmond-based non-profit, non-partisan economic and fiscal analysis organization conducted the study to document major economic and demographic trends among Virginia’s foreign-born population. Among the report’s key findings:
- Virginia’s immigrant population is growing and diverse. With over 903,000 foreign-born residents, Virginia in 2010 had the 9th-largest immigrant population in the U.S. Between 2000 and 2010, the Commonwealth’s foreign-born population grew almost twice as fast as the nation’s. No single country of origin accounts for more than 10% of the state’s immigrants.
- Virginia’s immigrants are well-educated. Nearly 4 of every 10 foreign-born residents in Virginia held a bachelor’s or an advanced degree in 2010. Only 6 other states and the District of Columbia are home to more immigrants with a college education or higher. Roughly three-quarters of the state’s immigrants speak English well or very well. Such knowledge and skills are crucial to success in today’s economy.
- A major share of the workforce is foreign-born and prospering. Roughly one of every seven Virginia workers in 2010 was foreign-born, even though immigrants make up about one of every 10 people in the state. Over the past decade, the median income of foreign-born workers in Virginia grew 6.1%, while immigrants’ incomes fell by a similar amount nationwide. The poverty rate for Virginia immigrants is lower than it is for immigrants nationwide and lower than that of native-born Virginians.
- Business ownership is widespread among Virginia’s immigrants. Foreign-born Virginians work in all sectors of the state’s economy, but they are more likely than native-born Virginians to be business owners. While immigrants comprise about 11% of Virginia’s population, they represent roughly 17% of its entrepreneurs. Immigrants accounted for over 40% of the growth in entrepreneurship in Virginia between 2000 and 2010.
“Immigrants play a key role in Virginia having such a productive, highly educated, high earning workforce,” says Michael Cassidy, President and CEO of The Commonwealth Institute. “Immigrants are the backbone of an economy routinely ranked as a powerhouse. Virginia’s foreign-born population is a critical asset for keeping the Commonwealth’s competitive edge sharp.”
The full report is available online.
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