Massachusetts

1. Introduction

Historically, Massachusetts has attracted large numbers of immigrants, starting in 1900 when three-fourths of Boston’s population was comprised of immigrants and their children. Today the foreign born population comprises one-seventh of the population in Massachusetts but has grown at a rate of more than 27 percent over the last decade. The foreign born population in Massachusetts is more diverse than in many parts of the country, and immigrants’ top three countries of birth, China, Brazil, and Portugal, all account for roughly the same percentage of the foreign born population. This contrasts with the national trend where Mexican born immigrants account for almost 30 percent of the foreign born and the next largest group, Indian born immigrants, accounts for only 4.6 percent.




  • Size of foreign-born population


    984,803




  • Percent of state’s population that is immigrant


    14.9%




  • Growth in foreign-born population 2000-2010


    27.6 %




  • Top countries of origin


    China, Brazil, Portugal




1. Introduction

Historically, Massachusetts has attracted large numbers of immigrants, starting in 1900 when three-fourths of Boston’s population was comprised of immigrants and their children. Today the foreign born population comprises one-seventh of the population in Massachusetts but has grown at a rate of more than 27 percent over the last decade. The foreign born population in Massachusetts is more diverse than in many parts of the country, and immigrants’ top three countries of birth, China, Brazil, and Portugal, all account for roughly the same percentage of the foreign born population. This contrasts with the national trend where Mexican born immigrants account for almost 30 percent of the foreign born and the next largest group, Indian born immigrants, accounts for only 4.6 percent.




  • Size of foreign-born population


    984,803




  • Percent of state’s population that is immigrant


    14.9%




  • Growth in foreign-born population 2000-2010


    27.6 %




  • Top countries of origin


    China, Brazil, Portugal



2. Economic Impact

Between 2008 and 2018, science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields are projected to play a key role in US economic growth, adding jobs 73 percent faster than the rest of the economy. For Massachusetts, 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 fields from the state’s research-intensive universities were temporary residents, a group with no clear path to stay in America after collecting their diplomas. Recently, non-citizens have earned nearly half of the engineering PhDs granted in the state.




  • 38.7%


    Share of STEM graduates at state's most research-intensive schools who are foreign born (2009): 38.7%




  • 49.1%


    Share of Engineering PhDs who were temporary or permanent residents (2006-2010): 49.1%





Foreign born students create jobs for Massachusetts residents and often provide the technological innovations that drive economic growth in the state. A recent study by the Partnership for a New American Economy and the American Enterprise Institute found that for every 100 foreign born graduates of a US Master’s or PhD program who stay in the United States working in a STEM field, 262 jobs are created for Americans. That translates into a large employment boost for Massachusetts, a state where, in 2010, nearly one out of every four STEM workers with an advanced degree was a foreign born.

With some of the nation’s leading research institutions in Massachusetts, STEM students make a significant contribution to the state’s economic growth and competitiveness by earning patents on cutting-edge research and products—and the numbers show that immigrants play a big role in that innovation. More than three out of every four patents – 76 percent – awarded to the 10 most productive US research universities in 2011 had at least one foreign born inventor.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) filed 168 patents in 2011, making it the third highest patent producing university behind the University of California System and Stanford. More than two out of every three patents at MIT had at least one foreign inventor. Beyond the potential for progress and job creation, patents provide significant income for universities; in 2010 MIT collected $69.2 million in revenue from its patents. After graduation, foreign born alumni of MIT founded 2,340 US-based companies, which together employ more than 100,000 people.

Immigration Reform = Economic Growth in Massachusetts

Reforming our immigration system will generate millions of dollars and thousands of jobs across Massachusetts. 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 $908 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 8,000 jobs and add more than $853 million to Gross State Product by 2014.




  • $1 billion


    In Massachusetts, creating a path to citizenship and expanding the high-skilled visa program would add a total of more than $a billion to Gross State Product in 2014.



3. Foreign Innovators

Immigrants have been integral in helping Massachusetts grow economically in recent years, especially as the state has struggled, along with the rest of the country, to drive new business and create American jobs. In 2010, almost 18 percent of business owners were immigrants, despite making up 14.9 percent of the population, a small but significant difference. From 2006 to 2010, immigrant-owned businesses generated almost $3 billion in annual income for the state.




  • 17.5%


    Share of business owners in Massachusetts who are immigrants: 17.5%




  • $2.8 billion


    Annual business income generated by immigrant-owned businesses: $2.8 billion





Immigrant entrepreneurs have long made significant contribution to the Massachusetts economy. The Partnership for a New American Economy found that immigrants or their children founded 40 percent of the 2010 Fortune 500 companies. In Massachusetts, immigrants or their children founded five of the state’s 11 Fortune 500 companies, and together, these companies (Staples, TJX, Thermo Fisher Scientific, Boston Scientific, and Biogen Idec) employ more than 280,000 people and generate almost $73 billion in revenue per year.

4. Immigrants and Massachusetts's Workforce

In part because of the challenges foreign students face remaining in the state after graduation, Massachusetts is currently some of the professional workers it needs in critical STEM areas, the very fields that help the state’s economy remain innovative and competitive. According to the nonpartisan advocacy group Change the Equation, from 2009 to 2011 more than two STEM jobs were posted online for every unemployed STEM worker in the state. Employers cannot find enough qualified candidates to fill the STEM jobs needed, even with the current number of immigrant STEM workers.




  • 2.1:1


    Ratio of STEM jobs to unemployed STEM workers: 2.1:1



Massachusetts may also need to recruit immigrants to address a coming shortage of medical professionals. Despite having the greatest density of doctors in the country, the federal government estimates that by 2020, Massachusetts could be short more than 25,000 registered nurses, leaving nearly 30 percent of the state’s RN positions vacant.

Immigrants are already playing a role filling labor gaps in Massachusetts: in 2005, 40 percent of pharmacists and one in three Home Health Aides were foreign born.




  • 415.5


    Number of physicians per 100,000 residents: 415.5




  • 25,382


    Nursing shortage by 2020: 25,382




  • 29.4%


    Share of nursing positions vacant by 2020: 29.4%




  • 22.4%


    Share of physicians who graduated from foreign medical schools, 2010: 22.4%



Immigrants in Massachusetts are creating jobs through seasonal and temporary work. According to the US Department of Labor, Massachusetts’ employers were granted certifications to bring in almost 2,500 workers on H-2B visas in 2011. One study by the Partnership for a New American Economy and the American Enterprise Institute found that for every 100 H-2B visa holders, 464 jobs are created or preserved for American born workers. In Massachusetts the visas authorized in 2011 supported more than 12,000 American jobs.




  • 2,617


    Massachusetts H-2B Visas (FY 2011): 2,617




  • 12,143


    Jobs Created: 12,143




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. With a more streamlined visa program, job creation in the state could be greater.

5. Spotlight

Growing up in Athens, Greece, Aristeidis Karalis says his family always expected that he would earn a graduate degree from one of America’s preeminent science and engineering programs. After finishing an undergraduate degree in electrical and computer engineering in Greece in 2001, he decided to continue studying at MIT; he arrived 2005 with a plan to research photonics.

Karalis was one of three researchers who began a project to look at the possibility of using magnetic coils to transmit electricity wirelessly. Although it started out as a small effort, by 2007, Karalis and the research team - including two more immigrants from Croatia and Brazil - had demonstrated they could power a 60-watt light bulb from a power source two meters away. “I knew then that this thing—our baby—was really happening,” Karalis says. Later that year, after getting substantial interest from angel investors, Karalis and several other scientists founded WiTricity Corporation, a Watertown, Massachusetts-based firm designed to commercialize that technology. Today Karalis says the firm employs about 45 people; it has also raised tens of millions of dollars in financing.

The firm currently has partnerships with Toyota and Audi to develop a product that would allow an electric car to be charged wirelessly—something Karalis says could be as simple as parking over a small charging device. Previously, the firm has demonstrated its technology can wirelessly power televisions and projectors. Karalis is most excited about a partnership his firm has with the medical device company Thoratec to develop a safer way to charge Ventricular Assist Devices, heart-pumping aids that now must be powered through wires coming out of the patient’s body—a requirement that severely limits a patient’s mobility and sometimes causes dangerous infections. “All my life I’ve been playing with equations and math,” Karalis says, “I’d never imagined that by doing that I would one day wind up in a situation where I could potentially save peoples’ lives.”

Though their contributions look different in each state, immigrants are helping to grow the US economy everywhere. Click on a state to learn more.