Immigrants and the United States

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As workers, business owners, taxpayers and neighbors, immigrants play a vital role in the U.S. economy and culture. They provide billions in annual tax revenue and fill critical jobs in construction, farming and other services that support the nation’s infrastructure and operations. Immigrants also contribute to the social fabric of their communities, often serving as school teachers, healthcare providers and social workers.

Most immigrants cite better opportunities for themselves and their children as the main reason they came to the United States. Others mention more personal reasons such as escaping unsafe or violent conditions in their home countries or wanting to be closer to family members who live here.

The vast majority of Americans say they are glad the United States allows immigration. Two-thirds say immigrants strengthen the country because of their hard work and talents; only a quarter think they burden it. Views differ, however, by political affiliation: among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents, 88% say immigrants strengthen the nation; among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, 41% say they burden it.

About a third of all adults living in the United States are immigrants, and almost four in ten are either Hispanic or Asian. The majority of immigrants are men, and most are younger than the median age for all Americans. Most immigrant households are low-income, and a large share of immigrant families receive public benefits such as Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). These benefits may help immigrants make ends meet while they establish themselves in their new homes. However, the long-term fiscal impact of these benefits is not well understood.

When asked about their biggest challenges, many immigrants mentioned concerns relating to making ends meet. When compared to the general public, immigrants are more likely to report financial worries, particularly about paying bills and the economy. They are also more likely to worry about their children’s safety, employment situation and education, as well as the overall quality of life in the United States.

Immigrants are highly skilled on average, with the majority having a college degree or more education compared to only about a third of native born Americans. Immigrants tend to be concentrated on both ends of the educational spectrum; those with the most advanced degrees are in professional fields such as engineering and computer science, while those with less education often work in physically demanding or lower paid professions such as agriculture, forestry and fisheries and in health care and social service industries.

Immigrants are also a highly mobile population, and many are able to move easily across the country as job opportunities arise. Despite these strengths, there are significant barriers for the large number of immigrants who live in poverty or have limited English proficiency. As a result, some immigrants experience high levels of workplace and other discrimination, difficulties in making ends meet, confusion about U.S. laws and policies, as well as fear of deportation. These challenges are more pronounced for some groups of immigrants than for others, including those living in lower-income households, Black and Hispanic immigrants, and those with limited English proficiency.