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


  • Percent of state’s population that is immigrant


  • Growth in foreign-born population 2000-2010


  • Top countries of origin

    Mexico, India, Vietnam

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 2009 about 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.

  • 39.6%

    Share of STEM graduates at state's most research-intensive schools who are foreign-born (2009): 39.6%

  • 57.8%

    Share of Engineering PhDs who were temporary or permanent residents (2006-2010): 57.8%

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.

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. 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.

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: 5.7%

  • $772 million

    Annual business income generated by immigrant-owned businesses: $772 million

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: 2.4:1

  • 8.7%

    Share of foreign-born advanced degree workers in STEM fields (2000): 8.7%

  • 17.2%

    Share of foreign-born advanced degree workers in STEM fields (2010): 17.2%

Minnesota may also need to recruit immigrants to address a coming shortage of medical professionals. By 2020, the federal government estimates that the state will be short more than 8,000 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

  • 8,096

    Nursing Shortage by 2020: 8,096

  • 14.6%

    Share of nursing positions vacant by 2020: 14.6%

  • 15.8%

    Share of physicians who graduated from foreign medical schools, 2012: 15.8%

  • 23.4%

    Share of active physicians who are over age 60: 23.4%

Immigrants in Minnesota are also creating jobs through seasonal and temporary work. According to the US Department of Labor, Minnesota employers were granted certifications to bring in more than 950 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 workers, 464 jobs are created or preserved for American born workers. In Minnesota that means the visas authorized in 2011 supported almost 4,500 American jobs.

  • 967

    Minnesota H-2B Visas (FY 2011): 967

  • 4,487

    Jobs Created: 4,487

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.