1. Introduction

Mississippi’s immigrant population makes up only 2.2 percent of the total population, but it grew by 70 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 (2013)


  • Percent of state’s population that is immigrant


  • Growth in foreign-born population 2000-2013


  • Top countries of origin

    Mexico, Vietnam, India

2. Economic Impact

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 2013, almost one in three students earning Master’s or PhD degrees in STEM fields from the state’s research-intensive universities were foreign-born. More than two-thirds of students earning engineering PhDs from Mississippi schools in recent years were also non-citizens.

  • 26.8%

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

  • 22.7%

    Share of Science/Engineering graduate students who were temporary residents (2010)

  • 66.9%

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

Foreign-born students create jobs for Mississippi 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 Master’s or PhD program who stay in the United States working in a STEM field, 262 jobs are created for Americans. However, in Mississippi, very few of the state’s STEM workers with advanced degrees were foreign-born, a decline from 2000, when 16.5 percent of these workers were immigrants. By 2020, Mississippi will need to fill 36,540 new STEM jobs and with reform, immigrants could play a key role in occupying these positions and continuing to promote economic growth.

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. The new H-1B visas awarded to Mississippi between 2010 and 2013 will translate into 772 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 900 jobs and add more than $69 million to Gross State Product by 2014.

  • $112 million

    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.

In addition to providing valuable support to Mississippi’s workforce, immigrants, specifically Hispanics, are also contributing to Mississippi's economy. A recent study by the Partnership for a New American Economy found that Hispanics account for $668 million in Mississippi’s spending power. Hispanics also contributed $238 million in combined federal, state, and local taxes. A total of $112 million of those taxes went to Social Security and $26 million was paid to the Medicare trust fund.

Immigrants are helping to grow housing wealth in some key Mississippi counties, as well. Between 2000 and 2010, 2,000 immigrants arrived in Hinds County, the area that includes the city of Jackson. 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 $231 to the value of the average home in the county, or more than $21 million to housing wealth there overall.

3. Foreign Innovators

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.

  • 4.2%

    Share of business owners in Mississippi who are immigrants

  • $181 million

    Annual business income generated by immigrant-owned businesses

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.

4. Immigrants and Mississippi's Workforce

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.

  • 1.7:1

    Ratio of STEM jobs to unemployed STEM workers

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 2030, the federal government estimates the state could be short more than 4,551 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 2012, almost 14 percent of physicians in the state were graduates of foreign medical schools, a population that is overwhelmingly immigrant.

  • 176.4

    Number of physicians per 100,000 residents

  • 50th

    Physician density rank relative to other states

  • 13.8%

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

Immigrants in Mississippi are creating jobs through seasonal and temporary work. According to the US Department of Labor, Mississippi employers were granted certifications to bring in more than 1,600 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 Mississippi, visas authorized in 2013 supported almost 8,000 American jobs.

  • 1,698

    Mississippi H-2B Visas (FY 2013)

  • 7,879

    Jobs Created

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.

5. Spotlight

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.

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