'New Americans in Erie County' Report Quantifies Impact of Immigrant Population
Foreign-born residents made significant economic contributions in 2019
Throughout the centuries, the makeup of Erie County has been shaped by waves of immigration, from the mass influx of Europeans in the latter half of the 1800s into the 1900s to more recent arrivals from the Middle East and South Asia, many of them refugees in search of a more peaceful and prosperous life.
Although many of them do find it here, assimilation into the professional workforce and integration into the general community can both be difficult, as xenophobic and nationalist sentiments have always existed and will likely always continue to exist to some degree. Nonetheless, the history of Erie County — and the United States of America — could not be said to be fully written without the contributions of immigrants.
Thanks to the recently released economic report "New Americans in Erie County," it's self-evident that the foreign-born figure significantly into the present as well. The report was awarded to Erie through the city's participation in New American Economy (NAE) and Welcoming America's Gateways for Growth Challenge, in collaboration with the Erie Regional Chamber and Growth Partnership and the Mayor's New American Council. Its publication came in tandem with Mayor Joe Schember's declaration of June as Immigrant Heritage Month and World Refugee Awareness Month in the City of Erie.
Leveraging the research and technical resources of NAE, "New Americans in Erie County" quantifies the current economic impacts of Erie's immigrant population as a means of encouraging inclusivity and promoting continued opportunity. "This new report reinforces why Erie's efforts to welcome immigrants are a crucial component of its economic growth and recovery strategy," explains Mo Kanter, director of state and local initiatives at NAE.
"Our foreign-born residents are making an enormous impact on our county economy," says Schember. "We look forward to being able to use the report to make data-driven decisions."
Echoes James Grunke, Erie Regional Chamber president and CEO: "This effort has given us critical insights into understanding our workforce and human capital. The findings of this report will help us craft a competitive workforce and inclusion strategy for a growing, vibrant economy."
Here are some of the takeaways.
- As of 2019, there were 11,200 immigrants residing in Erie County, which accounted for 4.1 percent of the population. This number includes both naturalized U.S. citizens and non-citizens, irrespective of legal status.
- In the City of Erie, 6,300 identified as foreign-born (6.5 percent of the city population).
- Of Erie County's immigrant population, 5,100 were naturalized U.S. citizens (45.4 percent), 1,800 were likely eligible (16.2 percent), and 4,300 (38.5 percent) were not yet eligible to naturalize
- Of Erie County's immigrant population, the top 5 nationalities were: Bhutanese (8.7 percent), Indian (7.3 percent), Mexican (7.2 percent), Chinese (7.1 percent), and Nepali (5.3 percent).
- About 3,000 of the immigrants living in Erie County during 2019 were refugees, with 32.4 percent of them arriving from Bhutan.
- Of the immigrants in Erie County, 17.9 percent have resided in the United States for less than 5 years. That's fairly consistent with the number of immigrants with limited English language proficiency (1,800 or 16.6 percent).
- Spanish (14.6 percent), Nepali (10.8 percent), and Arabic (7.4 percent) were the top three languages spoken in Erie County immigrant households in 2019.
- Approximately 74.4 percent of the Erie County immigrant population was of working age (between 16 and 64 years old) in 2019 — foreign-born residents were 17.7 percent more likely to be of working age than their U.S.-born counterparts.
- Altogether, immigrants comprise 4.8 percent of Erie County's working-age population and 4.0 percent of its employed population. They made up 8.2 percent of Erie County workers employed in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) fields.
- The top five industries by percentage of foreign-born workers in Erie County in 2019 were: professional services (6.8 percent), manufacturing (6.3), hospitality (5.0), healthcare & social assistance (3.1), and education (2.9).
- About 9.5 percent of Erie County's foreign-born residents owned their own business in 2019 (compared to 7.7 percent of U.S.-born residents). Across the county, 4.9 percent of business owners are immigrants.
- Immigrants aided in the preservation or creation of 500 manufacturing jobs in Erie County in 2019, according to New American Economy estimates.
- Erie County's New Americans held $192.3 million in spending power in 2019 (3.5 percent of spending power in the county). In the City of Erie, their spending power was $88.3 million
- Tax contributions from Erie County's immigrant population totaled $42.7 million federally and $26.4 million toward state and local. In the City of Erie, those numbers were $14.5 million and $12.4 million, respectively.
- Immigrants contributed $463.5 million to Erie County' GDP in 2019 (3.7 percent of the total).
- The foreign-born contributed $25.1 million toward Social Security and $6.4 million to Medicare in 2019.
- Erie County's foreign-born were more likely to live at or below 150% of the federal poverty threshold — 41.0 percent of immigrant households compared to 25.2 percent of U.S.-born.
- Of primary school (K-12) students in Erie County during the 2019-20 school year, 6.5 percent were the children of immigrants and 2.8 percent were born abroad.
- Proportionally to their population, Erie County immigrants 25 and older were somewhat more likely to hold a bachelor's degree than U.S.-born residents (29.8 percent vs. 27.7 percent) in 2019
- Proportionally to their population, Erie County immigrants 25 and older were much more likely to hold an advanced degree than U.S.-born residents (16.1 percent vs. 9.8 percent).
- Erie County colleges and universities were attended by 593 temporary residents during the Fall 2019 semester. Of those, 83 international students graduated with STEM degrees.
- In Erie County in 2019, 52.8 percent of immigrant households were renters and 47.2 percent were homeowners.
- The cumulative property value of Erie County immigrant households was $342.0 million in 2019.
- Over the course of 2019, 57.2 percent of Erie County's immigrant households dwelt in houses, 40.2 percent lived in apartments, and 2.6 percent made their home in other types of housing.
- Countywide, immigrant households had the same rate of access to broadband internet (83.2 percent) as their U.S.-born counterparts
Overall, the report stands as confirmation that our recently christened "Certified Welcoming Place" has plenty of incentive to continue to welcome those from afar.
Concludes Christina Pope, senior network director of Welcoming America. "The City of Erie continues to be an example for how communities can effectively harness the talent of immigrants to create greater prosperity for all residents."
Matt Swanseger can be reached at email@example.com