1. Introduction

Minnesota’s immigrant population makes up more than seven percent of the state’s total, but grew by more than 50 percent over the last decade, well above the national average, according to analysis by the Pew Hispanic Center. According to the Selig Center for Economic Growth, Latino and Asian immigrants had a purchasing power totaling $11 billion in 2010. Minnesota’s immigrant population is also very diverse; it is home to more than 60,000 Hmong and the largest Somali population in the country.

  • Size of foreign-born population (2013)


  • Percent of state’s population that is immigrant


  • Growth in foreign-born population 2000-2010


  • Top countries of origin

    Mexico, India, Vietnam

The growing number of foreign-born citizens in Minnesota will also cause a demographic shift that has the promise of drastically shifting the electoral map. According to a study by the Partnership for a New American Economy, the foreign-born Hispanic and Asian populations in particular could cause the the electoral makeup of 18 key states to change substantively. In Minnesota, there are a total of 57,000 unregistered Asian and Latino voters. Between 2012 and 2016 there will be a total of 46,136 newly eligible Hispanic and Asian voters, by 2020 that number is expected to grow to 93,516. In a high impact scenario, this demographic change could result in 26,775 additional democratic voters in 2016 and 42,044 by 2020

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 Minnesota, 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 2013, over 40 percent of the students earning Master’s or PhDs in STEM from the state’s research-intensive universities were foreign-born. In recent years, almost 58 percent of the students earning engineering PhDs in the state in recent years were also non-citizens.

  • 42.9%

    Share of STEM graduates at state's most research-intensive schools who are foreign-born (2013)

  • 57.8%

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

Foreign-born students create jobs for Minnesotans 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 Minnesota, a state where, in 2010, more than 17 percent of STEM workers with an advanced degree were foreign-born, almost double their share of the STEM workforce 10 years earlier. By 2020, Minnesota will need to fill 154,920new STEM jobs and immigrants will play a key role in occupying these positions and continuing to promote economic growth.

Immigration Reform = Economic Growth in Minnesota

Reforming our immigration system will generate millions of dollars and thousands of jobs across Minnesota. According to Regional Economic Models, Inc. (REMI), undocumented immigrants who enroll in a legal path to citizenship will generate more than 6,500 jobs and more than $594 million for the state by 2020. Expanding the number of both high-skilled (H-1B) visas will also have positive economic effects. The new H-1B visas awarded to Minnesota between 2010 and 2013 will translate into 6,055 new jobs for U.S.-born workers in the state by 2020. REMI estimates that expansion of the H-1B program would result in more than 3,800 jobs and add more than $365 million to Gross State Product by 2014.

  • $484 million

    In Minnesota, creating a path to citizenship and expanding the high-skilled visa program would add a total of more than $484 million to Gross State Product in 2014.

In addition to providing valuable support to Minnesota’s workforce, immigrants, specifically Hispanics, are also contributing to Minnesota's economy. A recent study by the Partnership for a New American Economy found that Hispanics account for $2.6 billion in Minnesota’s spending power. Hispanics also contributed $876 million in combined federal, state, and local taxes. A total of $426 million of those taxes went to Social Security and $100 million was paid to the Medicare trust fund.

Immigrants are helping to grow housing wealth in some key Minnesota counties, as well. Between 2000 and 2010, more than 32,000 immigrants arrived in Hennepin County, the area that includes the city of Minneapolis. By moving into neighborhoods formerly in decline, these immigrants played a role adding to the housing wealth of the neighborhood’s residents. That influx of immigrants added $3,776 to the value of the average home in the county, or nearly $1.8 billion to housing wealth there overall.

3. Foreign Innovators

Immigrants have been integral in helping Minnesota 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, 5.7 percent of business owners in Minnesota were immigrants and from 2006 to 2010, immigrant-owned businesses generated more than $771 million in annual income for the state.

  • 5.7%

    Share of business owners in Minnesota who are immigrants

  • $772 million

    Annual business income generated by immigrant-owned businesses

Immigrant entrepreneurs have long made significant contributions to Minnesota’s economy. Immigrants or their children founded some of the state’s most prominent companies, including Mosaic, Medtronic, Alliant TechSystems, and Life Time Fitness. Together these four companies employ more than 90,000 people and bring in more than $33 billion dollars in revenue.

4. Immigrants and Minnesota's Workforce

In part because of some of the challenges students face remaining in the state after graduation, Minnesota is currently short some of the professional workers it needs in critical science, technology, engineering, and math--or 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 nearly 2.5 STEM jobs were posted online in Minnesota for every one unemployed STEM worker in the state. Immigrants are already helping to fix this shortage in Minnesota: the percentage of advanced degree holding workers with jobs in STEM fields who are foreign-born nearly doubled between 2000 and 2010.

  • 2.4:1

    Ratio of STEM jobs to unemployed STEM workers

  • 8.7%

    Share of foreign-born advanced degree workers in STEM fields (2000)

  • 17.2%

    Share of foreign-born advanced degree workers in STEM fields (2010)

Minnesota may also need to recruit immigrants to address a coming shortage of medical professionals. By 2030, the federal government estimates that the state will be short more than 2,750 registered nurses, leaving nearly 15 percent of RN positions vacant. Potential physician shortages are also a concern in Minnesota. The distribution of doctors is heavily weighted towards the urban areas the state, with only 5 percent of physicians practicing in rural areas. Immigrants are already playing a role filling labor gaps: in 2012, almost 16 percent of physicians in the state were graduates of foreign medical schools, a population that is overwhelmingly immigrant.

  • 269.6

    Number of physicians per 100,000 residents: 269.6

  • 2,750

    Nursing Shortage by 2030

  • 14.6%

    Share of nursing positions vacant by 2020

  • 15.8%

    Share of physicians who graduated from foreign medical schools (2012)

  • 23.4%

    Share of active physicians who are over age 60

Immigrants in Minnesota are also creating jobs through seasonal and temporary work. Between 1990 and 2010, Minnesota's supply of less-skilled workers born in the U.S. dropped by 205,022. Over that same period, the state's foreign-born, less-skilled labor force grew by 94,986, leaving a difference of 110,036 openings that immigrants could be filling. According to the US Department of Labor, Minnesota employers were granted certifications to bring in almost 600 workers on H-2B visas in 2013. 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 Minnesota that means the visas authorized in 2013 supported almost 2,700 American jobs.

  • 588

    Minnesota H-2B Visas (FY 2013)

  • 2,728

    Jobs Created

However, attaining the H-2B visa can be costly and cumbersome. The average employer spends $2,500 for each H-2B visa it sponsors, and applies to multiple federal agencies in the process. With a more streamlined visa program, job creation in the state could be greater.

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