A project of the Partnership for a New American Economy
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 (2013)
Percent of state’s population that is immigrant
Growth in foreign-born population (2000-2013)
Top countries of origin
Wyoming may also need to recruit immigrants to address a coming shortage of medical professionals. By the year 2030, the federal government estimates that the state will be short 1,689 registered nurses 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 2012, 11.3 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.
Number of nursing positions vacant by 2030
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 2009, more than a quarter of the students earning Master’s or PhDs in STEM from the state’s research-intensive universities were foreign-born, and in 2010, nearly 15 percent of STEM workers with an advanced degree were foreign-born. By 2020, Wyoming will need to fill 120,300 new STEM jobs and immigrants will play a key role in occupying these positions and continuing to promote economic growth.
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. The new H-1B visas awarded to Wyoming between 2010 and 2013 will translate into 171 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 280 jobs and add more than $27 million to Gross State Product by 2014.
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.
Wyoming’s Hispanic population, both native and foreign-born, are an essential source of economic growth. Currently, Hispanics make up $553 million of the state’s total spending power, funds that can be used to buy daily goods and services that support the local economy both through direct financial contributions and indirectly through job creation. Foreign-born Hispanics alone hold $112 million of this total. The tax contributions of Hispanics in Wyoming are another significant way in which they support economic development, contributing $145 million by a conservative estimate
Immigrants are helping to grow housing wealth in some key Wyoming counties, as well. Between 2000 and 2010, more than 1,400 immigrants arrived in Sweetwater County. 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 $166 to the value of the average home in the county, or more than $2.7 million to housing wealth there overall.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Between 1990 and 2010, Alabama's supply of less-skilled workers born in the U.S. also dropped by 2,665. Over that same period, the state's foreign-born, less-skilled labor force grew by 484, leaving a difference of 2,181 openings that immigrants could be filling.
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.
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.