Wyoming

1. Introduction

Though Wyoming’s immigrant population makes up only three percent of the state total, it has been growing at a higher rate than the national average. According to the Pew Hispanic Center, it grew by 33 percent between 2000 and 2011, to just over 16,000 people. Latinos and Asians added significantly to this growth, and today they make important contributions to Wyoming’s economy. According to the Selig Center for Economic Growth, together these groups had a purchasing power totaling more than $1.5 billion in 2010.




  • Size of foreign-born population


    16,419




  • Percent of state’s population that is immigrant


    2.9%




  • Growth in foreign-born population 2000-2010


    32.9%




  • Top countries of origin


    Mexico, Philippines, Canada



2. Economic Impact

Wyoming may also need to recruit immigrants to address a coming shortage of medical professionals. By the year 2020, the federal government estimates that the state will be short more than 3,500 registered nurses, leaving 63 percent of nursing positions vacant due to a lack of qualified workers. Potential physician shortages are also a concern in Wyoming, a state with no medical schools. The distribution of physicians is heavily weighted towards the urban areas making access to primary care difficult for residents living in rural areas. Two-thirds of Wyoming’s counties have fewer than the national average of primary care physicians. In addition, the current physician population is aging—26 percent are age of 60 or older—and and will soon exit the workforce, but recruiting new doctors is difficult for Wyoming without a medical school or physician assistant education program. Immigrants are already playing a major role filling such labor gaps: In 2010, almost 11 percent of physicians in the state were graduates of foreign medical schools, a population that’s overwhelmingly immigrant, even though immigrants made up only 2.9 percent of the population.




  • 193


    Number of physicians per 100,000 residents: 193




  • 63.3%


    2020 Share of nursing positions vacant by 2020: 63.3%




  • 5.8%


    5.8% of active physicians are age 60 or older




Foreign-born students create jobs for Wyoming 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 graduate of a US Master’s or PhD program who stays in the United States working in a STEM field, 262 jobs are created for Americans. That translates into a major employment boost for Wyoming, a state where, in 2010, nearly 15 percent of STEM workers with an advanced degree was foreign born.

Immigration Reform = Economic Growth in Wyoming

Reforming our immigration system will generate millions of dollars and thousands of jobs across Wyoming. According to Regional Economic Models, Inc. (REMI), undocumented immigrants who enroll in a legal path to citizenship will generate more than 860 jobs and more than $83 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 280 jobs and add more than $27 million to Gross State Product by 2014.




  • $40 million


    In Wyoming, creating a path to citizenship and expanding the high-skilled visa program would add a total of more than $40 million to Gross State Product in 2014.



3. Foreign Innovators

Immigrants have been integral in helping Wyoming 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. Between 2006 and 2010, immigrant-owned businesses generated more than $59 million for the state each year.




  • 2.6%


    Share of business owners in Wyoming who are immigrants: 2.6%




  • $59.6 million


    Annual business income generated by immigrant-owned businesses: $59.6 million




Immigrant entrepreneurs have long made significant contributors to Wyoming’s economic growth. The Nebraska-based Kiewit Corporation, one of the largest contractors in the world, has two large mining subsidiaries in Wyoming: Black Butte and Buckskin Mining Companies. The mining subsidiaries operate mines throughout Wyoming and employ more than 2,000 people.

4. Immigrants and Wyoming's Workforce

Current immigration policy has been harmful in recent years to Wyoming’s economy, which relies heavily on agriculture, in particular on cattle--an industry that garners more than $800 million in revenue for the state annually. Because of its aging workforce, native born youth leaving the state, and economic growth, Wyoming’s Department of Employment, Research and Planning predicts that there will be 12,000 agricultural job openings a year. The US Department of Agriculture estimates that for every one on-farm job, more than three additional jobs are supported that could not exist otherwise, often in better-paying industries like manufacturing, packaging, and transportation. Immigrants can fill these agricultural labor gaps, as they have in other states--including California, Texas, and North Carolina, among many others. Despite these benefits, however, the US currently lacks a temporary visa for farm workers that is easily accessible—and financially feasible—for many small and medium-sized farms.

Due in part to some of the challenges students face remaining in the state after graduation, Wyoming is also 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 four STEM jobs were posted online in Wyoming for every one unemployed STEM worker in the state. Immigrants are already helping to alleviate this shortage in many other states, and nationally, foreign born students are more likely than native born students to enter into and graduate from STEM programs.




  • 3.8:1


    Ratio of STEM jobs to unemployed STEM workers: 3.8:1




Wyoming may also need to recruit immigrants to address a coming shortage of medical professionals. By the year 2020, the federal government estimates that the state will be short more than 3,500 registered nurses, leaving 63 percent of nursing positions vacant due to a lack of qualified workers. Potential physician shortages are also a concern in Wyoming, a state with no medical schools. The distribution of physicians is heavily weighted towards the urban areas making access to primary care difficult for residents living in rural areas. Two-thirds of Wyoming’s counties have fewer than the national average of primary care physicians. In addition, the current physician population is aging—26 percent are age of 60 or older—and and will soon exit the workforce, but recruiting new doctors is difficult for Wyoming without a medical school or physician assistant education program. Immigrants are already playing a major role filling such labor gaps: In 2010, almost 11 percent of physicians in the state were graduates of foreign medical schools, a population that’s overwhelmingly immigrant, even though immigrants made up only 2.9 percent of the population.

5. Spotlight

Peter Kiewit and Kiewit Corporation.
Peter and Andrew Kiewit, Dutch immigrant brothers, started Kiewit Brothers in 1884. Five years after its founding the contracting firm was awarded its first big job, the seven-story Lincoln Hotel in Omaha, Nebraska. Later, the firm oversaw the building of multiple Nebraska landmarks such as the Nebraska State Capitol Tower and the Joslyn Art Museum. Peter Kiewit’s children and grandchildren played a large role in the company’s success for over half a century. Today, Kiewit is involved in large infrastructure projects such as the San Francisco Bay Bridge and highway interchanges.

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