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Working for a Better Life: A Profile of Immigrants in the New York Economy

Working for a Better Life: A Profile of Immigrants in the New York Economy

Monday, November 26, 2007
Executive Summary (Excerpt):

In the political frenzy around immigration policy, it is all too easy to lose perspective on the economic role that immigrants play in New York State. Immigrants make up 21 percent of the state population, and contribute to New York's economy in a wide variety of ways.

Working for a Better Life is an overall profile of immigrants in the New York State economy, looking at the entire spectrum of immigration, upstate and downstate, documented and undocumented, black, white, Hispanic and Asian.

Two major statewide themes emerge from this report.

1. Immigrants contribute broadly to the New York economy.

Immigrants in New York are by no means marginal to the economy. New York’s immigrants are responsible for $229 billion in economic output in New York State. That’s 22.4 percent of the total New York State GDP, a share slightly larger than immigrants’ share of population, and slightly smaller than their share of the workforce. Despite the common impression that immigrants work primarily in low-wage jobs, immigrants in New York State are entrepreneurs, managers, and workers in jobs at all levels of the economy, from the lowest-paid day laborers to the highest-paid investment bankers.

2. Over time, immigrants become part of our communities.

Immigrants gradually become part of our communities as they learn English, buy homes, start businesses, and raise American kids. At the same time, our communities change, as they become increasingly diverse and globally connected. 

  • Most immigrants in New York State speak English today, and their English gets significantly better over time.
  • Hispanic- and Asian-owned businesses—one indication of immigrant entrepreneurship—have been growing rapidly, sharply increasing the number of employees.
  • In upstate and the downstate suburbs, about two thirds of immigrants own their own homes.
  • More than one third of children in New York State (34 percent) live in a family with at least one foreign-born adult. In New York City, that figure is 57 percent, in the downstate suburbs 31 percent, and upstate 8 percent.

Each of the three regions of New York State examined in Working for a Better Life has a particular dynamic of immigration.

Please find the links below to the full executive summary and report.

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