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Our Opinion: Immigrants boost economy

How do immigrants contribute to Minnesota’s economy?

Let us count the ways.

According to a Minnesota Chamber of Commerce report:

As of 2011, Minnesota had an immigrant population of 375,000 to 390,000, 20th largest and 17th fastest growing among states.

Of these, 46 percent were U.S. citizens; 31-40 percent were authorized noncitizens and 14-23 percent were in the country illegally.

As the state’s population ages and baby boomers retire, immigrants are increasingly important to the workforce. They tend to be younger than native Minnesotans, and have a high labor-force participation rate: Immigrants comprise 7 percent of all Minnesotans, 9 percent of the workforce and 6 percent of business owners.

The minority and immigrant population is increasing in every region of Minnesota, often helping to keep small towns and urban communities vibrant, and rural schools open.

Minnesota immigrant households spend money on groceries, vehicles, homes and other goods just like native households do, contributing to the economies of every city and town across the state. The state’s immigrant households have an estimated buying power of more than $5 billion a year.

Immigrants often move into depressed neighborhoods seeking affordable housing, and as a result revitalize communities, which then attract more U.S.-born residents as well.

Immigrants accounted for 20 percent of Minnesota’s growth in homeownership from 2000-2010, and are projected to create 17 percent of homeownership growth this decade.

Immigrants comprise 37 percent of lower-skilled workers and 8.5 percent of college-educated workers in the state, while accounting for just 7 percent of the population.

Foreign-born workers are more likely to be either highly educated or to have minimal formal education compared with native workers. They often complement the native workforce by filling roles that Minnesotans are unwilling or unqualified to fill.

For example, some 34 percent of Minnesota’s medical scientists are immigrants, as are 42 percent of atmospheric and space scientists and 38.5 percent of the state’s butchers, according to 2010 Census Bureau and American Community Survey data.

Immigrants pay an estimated $793 million per year in state and local taxes in Minnesota.

Forty-five counties generated more than $1 million in tax payments from ethnic Latino and Asian populations: Hennepin County generated the most at $300 million, according to a 2009 estimate.

An estimated 44,500 Minnesota businesses are immigrant-owned, based on national statistics. Immigrants are more likely to start a business than those born in the United States.

More than 7 percent of immigrant-owned firms derive revenue from exports, compared with 4.4 percent of nonimmigrant-owned firms.

In short, immigrants provide Minnesota with vital human capital – not just workers at all skill levels, but also innovation, buying power, new businesses and better access to global networks.

Give us your huddled masses: It’s a winning scenario for Minnesota.