A project of the Partnership for a New American Economy
Mississippi’s immigrant population makes up only 2.3 percent of the total population, but it grew by 60 percent--more than double the rate of the national average--between 2000 and 2011, and already these immigrants are beginning to have a powerful impact on the state’s economy. According to the Selig Center for Economic Growth, Latino and Asian residents of the state had purchasing power totaling close to $3 billion in 2010.
Size of foreign-born population
Percent of state’s population that is immigrant
Growth in foreign-born population 2000-2010
Top countries of origin
Between 2008 and 2018, 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 Mississippi, fixing the US immigration system so that it’s easier for students trained in America to remain in the country after graduation will be critical: in 2009 more than one in three 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. More than two-thirds of students earning engineering PhDs from Mississippi schools in recent years were also non-citizens.
Share of STEM graduates at state's most research-intensive schools who are foreign born (2009): 35.1%
Share of Science/Engineering graduate students who were temporary residents (2010): 22.7%
Share of Engineering PhDs who were temporary residents (2006-2010): 66.9%
Immigration Reform = Economic Growth in Mississippi
Reforming our immigration system will generate millions of dollars and thousands of jobs across Mississippi. According to Regional Economic Models, Inc. (REMI), undocumented immigrants who enroll in a legal path to citizenship will generate more than 2,900 jobs and more than $219 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 900 jobs and add more than $69 million to Gross State Product by 2014.
In Mississippi, creating a path to citizenship and expanding the high-skilled visa program would add a total of more than $112 million to Gross State Product in 2014.
Immigrants have been integral in helping Mississippi 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, Mississippi immigrants owned more than four percent of Mississippi’s businesses, despite making up just over two percent of the state’s total population. From 2006 to 2010, immigrant-owned businesses generated more than $181 million in income for the state each year.
Share of business owners in Mississippi who are immigrants: 4.2%
Annual business income generated by immigrant-owned businesses: $181 million
Immigrant entrepreneurs have long made significant contribution to Mississippi’s economy. One of the state’s biggest companies, Stein Mart, was started by an immigrant; today it employs 11,400 people and earns $1.2 billion in annual revenue.
In part because of some of the challenges students face remaining in the state after graduation, Mississippi is also currently short some 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 almost two STEM jobs were posted online in Mississippi for every one unemployed STEM worker in the state. Fixing this problem will be critical for Mississippi, where the percentage of foreign born advanced degree holding workers with jobs in STEM fields dropped from 16.5 to 0 between 2000 and 2010.
Ratio of STEM jobs to unemployed STEM workers: 1.7:1
Share of foreign born advanced degree workers in STEM fields (2000): 16.5%
Share of foreign born advanced degree workers in STEM fields (2010): 0%
Decrease in share of foreign born STEM workers: 100%
Mississippi may also need to recruit immigrants to address a coming shortage of medical professionals. Mississippi is already last in the country in physician density, with just 176.4 doctors per 100,000 people. By 2020, the federal government estimates the state could be short more than 1,400 registered nurses, leaving more than five percent of RN positions in the state vacant. Immigrants are already playing a role filling such labor gaps: in 2010, almost 14 percent of physicians in the state were graduates of foreign medical schools, a population that is overwhelmingly immigrant.
Number of physicians per 100,000 residents: 176.4
Physician density rank relative to other states: 50th
Share of physicians who graduated from foreign medical schools, 2010: 13.8%
Mississippi H-2B Visas (FY 2011): 2,509
Jobs Created: 11,642
However, the H-2B visa can be costly and cumbersome to attain. 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.
Eduardo Gonzalez, a Cuban immigrant and the founder and CEO of a successful steel company, studied economics at University of Michigan, and began working in the steel industry in his mid 20s. At age 28, he used his savings to buy a bankrupt steel toll processor, a firm that converts raw steel into usable parts. “I’d always wanted to be an entrepreneur,” Gonzalez explains, “and after watching the owner of the steel company I worked for, I felt like I could do things better.”
Gonzalez says when he first began his Cleveland-based business, Farragon Corporation, he only had five employees—and enough cash on hand to last just three months. Today, he runs five interrelated companies, all within the steel toll processing industry. His businesses—based in Kentucky, Mississippi, Cleveland, and Detroit—employ 300 people and generate $50 million in revenue each year. And many of the jobs he created have gone to workers born in America: Gonzalez estimates 70 to 80 percent of his workforce is US born.
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.