Immigrants and the United States

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Many people move to another country because of work, school, or family. But some individuals leave their homes for more personal reasons, including political instability, poverty, economic or environmental crisis, gang violence, discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation, or other factors that can lead to danger and hardship.

Immigrants make up a large and growing share of the world’s population, and contribute to the economy and culture of their new home countries. Many immigrants also bring with them a passion for building and sustaining communities of all shapes and sizes, and have helped create a more diverse and inclusive society.

The most common reason that respondents cited for leaving their country of origin was to find better opportunities and improve their quality of life. This was particularly true for those who reported coming to the United States to work, as they often did so in professions that have a high demand for skilled labor, such as health care and construction.

In the focus groups, many participants described how they hoped to provide their children with better educational and employment opportunities than were available in their home countries. They also frequently emphasized the sacrifices they were making for their own lives in order to give their families this future.

Despite the challenges, most immigrants report feeling happy with their lives in the United States. When asked whether they would choose to come to the United States again if they had to do it all over, three in four immigrants say they would.

About seven in ten working immigrants have jobs, compared with only about half of U.S. born adults. Some of the most common jobs for immigrants include sales, health care, production, and construction. Some working immigrants are self-employed or own their own businesses. Among those who are not self-employed, a third of immigrant adults — and four in ten of those who are likely undocumented — say they have avoided activities, such as talking to the police or applying for jobs, because of concerns about their immigration status.

Many immigrants are concerned about how they and their families will be able to afford basic needs like food, housing, and medical care. These concerns are especially pronounced for those who are likely undocumented, and may be due in part to the fact that immigrants are more likely than other adults to live below the poverty line.

The United States is a very large country with lots of space, and its residents are very used to traveling long distances for business or pleasure. Its extensive network of airports makes travel within the country very convenient and easy. This is not the case for every country around the world, and can be a big benefit of living in the United States. Likewise, Americans pay a lower tax rate than most of the developed world, which can also make it a desirable place to live.