A project of the Partnership for a New American Economy
Connecticut is known today as a global hub of investment services, the home of Yale University, its importance New York City metropolitan area, and, among Red Sox and Yankees fans, as neutral territory. Lesser known is that Connecticut has also long been home to a growing immigrant population. From 2000 to 2011, the number of immigrants in Connecticut grew by nearly 30 percent. This growth has expanded the state’s already large population of immigrants, where in 2011 the Pew Hispanic Center found that more than 475,000 people in the state were foreign born.
Size of foreign-born population
Percent of state’s population that is immigrant
Growth in foreign-born population 2000-2010
Top countries of origin
In the coming years, science, technology, engineering, and math—or STEM—fields are projected to be a key part of US economic growth, adding jobs 73 percent faster than the rest of the economy. For Connecticut, fixing the US immigration system to make it easier for students trained in America to remain in the country after graduation will be critical: in 2009, almost 40 percent of the students earning Master’s or PhD degrees in STEM from the state’s research-intensive universities were temporary residents, a group with no clear path to stay in America after collecting their diplomas. In recent years, noncitizens have also earned more than two out of every three engineering PhDs granted in the state. Despite that, these students are often forced to go home after graduation because the US immigration system gives them few options for staying in the US.
Share of STEM graduates at state's most research-intensive schools who are foreign born (2009): 38.2%
Share of Engineering PhDs who were temporary residents (2006-2010): 68.2%
Immigration Reform = Economic Growth in Connecticut
Reforming our immigration system will generate millions of dollars and thousands of jobs across Connecticut. According to Regional Economic Models, Inc. (REMI), undocumented immigrants who enroll in a legal path to citizenship will generate more than 10,000 jobs and more than $470 million for the state by 2020. Expanding the number of both high-skilled (H-1B) visas will also have positive economic effects. REMI estimates that expansion of the H-1B program would result in more than 3,800 jobs and add more than $282 million to Gross State Product by 2014.
In Connecticut, creating a path to citizenship and expanding the high-skilled visa program would add a total of more than $498 million to Gross State Product in 2014.
Immigrants have been integral in helping the Connecticut economy grow in recent years, especially as the state has struggled along with the rest of the economy to drive new business and create American jobs. In Connecticut, as in many places around the country, immigrants have led in business startups: foreign born residents own nearly one in five businesses in the state despite making up just 13 percent of the total population. Connecticut now boasts the 11th highest rate of immigrant business ownership in the country, not far behind California, Florida, and New York.
Share of business owners who are immigrants in Connecticut: 18.5%
Annual business income generated by immigrant-owned businesses: $2.05 billion
Immigrant entrepreneurs, in fact, have long been a critical part of Connecticut’s economic success story. Aerospace-industry conglomerate United Technologies Corporation and electronics giant Pitney Bowes were both founded by immigrants. And two other Fortune 500 firms based in the state—General Electric and Terex—were founded by the children of people who immigrated here from Canada and Germany. Together, these four companies employ more than 550,600 people and bring in more than $217 billion in annual revenues.
Due in part to some of the challenges students face remaining in the state after graduation, Connecticut is currently short of the professional workers it needs in critical STEM areas, fields that help the state’s economy remain innovative and competitive. According to the nonpartisan advocacy group Change the Equation, from 2009 to 2011 2.8 STEM jobs were posted online in Connecticut for every one unemployed STEM worker in the state.
Ratio of STEM jobs to unemployed STEM workers: 2.82:1
Share of foreign born advanced degree workers in STEM fields (2000): 19.7%
Share of foreign born advanced degree workers in STEM fields (2010): 30.2%
Increase in foreign born workers in STEM fields: 52.8%
Connecticut may also need to recruit immigrants to address a looming shortage of medical professionals. By 2020, the federal government has estimated Connecticut could be short 21,800 registered nurses. Immigrants are already playing a major role in filling these projected labor gaps: in 2012, 28 percent of physicians in the state were graduates of foreign medical schools, who tend to be overwhelmingly immigrant.
Nursing Shortage by 2020: 21,800
Share of physicians who graduated from foreign medical schools, 2012: 28%
Share of active physicians who are 60 or older: 27.3%
Foreign seasonal and temporary workers are also helping to create jobs in Connecticut. According to the US Department of Labor, Connecticut employers were granted certifications to bring in 600 workers on H-2B visas in fiscal year 2011. One study by the Partnership for a New American Economy and the American Enterprise Institute found that for every 100 H-2B visa workers, 464 jobs are created or preserved for American born workers. In Connecticut, that means the visas authorized in FY 2011 supported almost 2,800 American jobs.
Connecticut H-2B Visas (FY 2011): 601
Jobs Created: 2,789
However, the H-2B visa can be costly and cumbersome to attain. Employers typically spend $2,500 for each H-2B visa they sponsor, and must apply to multiple federal agencies in the process, waiting eight weeks for an answer. With a more streamlined visa program, the job benefit to the state could be even greater.
Thomas Edison was born in 1847 to Canadians who fled to the United States after taking part in an unsuccessful armed rebellion in support of Canada’s secession from Great Britain. His entrepreneurial spirit led him to found 14 companies and establish a legacy as one of the world’s greatest inventors. Edison’s first patent on an electric vote recorder in 1869 met little success at the time, but his 1877 creation of the phonograph garnered him instant international fame, and funded his most revolutionary invention, the world’s first industrial research lab. Institutionalized as the Edison Electric Light Company in 1878, the lab’s 1879 demonstration of the world’s first electric light bulb made Thomas Edison as a household name. Now known as General Electric, Edison’s company is headquartered in Fairfield, Connecticut and is one of the largest publicly traded companies in the world. GE earned a sixth place ranking in Forbes’ Fortune 500 in 2012 with $147 billion in annual revenue and over 301,000 employees worldwide.
Immigrants are helping to grow the US economy everywhere, not just in the places—like our biggest cities—that we expect. They are helping to fill labor shortages on America’s farms, starting businesses that employ US workers, and developing the cutting-edge products that make America the world’s preeminent innovation hub.
Click on a state to learn more about the contributions immigrants are making to the local economy.