New Report Shows Immigrants and Refugees in San Mateo County Paid Over $5.5 Billion in Taxes and Held $12.7 Billion in Spending Power in 2019

Immigrants and refugees in San Mateo County make up 58.2 percent of construction workers and 47.6 percent of STEM workers

SAN MATEO COUNTY, CA – A new report released today by New American Economy (NAE), in partnership with the County of San Mateo’s Office of Community Affairs’ Immigrant Services, underscores the critical role immigrants and refugees in San Mateo County play in driving the region’s growth, supporting the local workforce, and growing the local economy.

Between 2014 and 2019 the San Mateo County population grew by 1.1 percent, with the immigrant and refugee population growing by 0.8 percent. Immigrants and refugees accounted for 27.1 percent of the total population growth in the region. In 2019 alone, immigrants and refugees in the region held $12.7 billion in spending power, and paid over $4.6 billion in federal taxes and $1.9 billion in state and local taxes. Despite making up 35.2 percent of the area’s overall population, immigrants and refugees represent 58.2 percent of construction workers, 56.1 percent of transportation and warehousing workers, and 47.1 percent of health care and social assistance workers.

The new report was awarded to the County of San Mateo as part of the Gateways for Growth Challenge, a competitive opportunity for localities to receive research support and/or technical assistance from New American Economy and Welcoming America to improve immigrant inclusion in their communities. The San Mateo County Office of Community Affairs’ Immigrant Services and New American Economy presented the new report at the Immigrant Engagement Summit in coordination with Welcoming Week, a national initiative that brings together neighbors of all backgrounds to build strong connections and affirm the importance of welcoming and inclusive places in achieving collective prosperity.

This report will be leveraged in the region’s efforts to draft a multi-sector immigrant inclusion strategy. Following the launch of the report, the County’s Office of Community Affairs’ Immigrant Services will be launching a comprehensive survey and series of focus groups to garner community feedback on how to make the community more welcoming and supportive for immigrant, refugee and marginalized communities.

Speaking more broadly about the Immigrant Inclusion strategic planning process, Shireen Malekafzali, the County’s Chief Equity Officer, said “As an immigrant, I worked hard to learn English and make friends while I watched my parents struggle to navigate their way around a new culture, language, jobs, documentation, and more. Everything was hard and foreign, and we never felt like we belonged. I appreciate this effort to develop a comprehensive plan to ensure all immigrant families and individuals feel like they belong in San Mateo County.”

“Immigrant inclusion promotes prosperity and transforms all residents, reaping shared benefits and a thriving community for both foreign-born and native-born residents alike. We are fortunate that San Mateo County has many organizations, foundations, and government agencies/municipalities already dedicated towards serving their immigrant communities and making San Mateo County welcoming and inclusive for all. This is the first time that all these amazing efforts will combine to create one large-scale, multi-sector immigrant inclusion strategic plan for the near future and for years to come, and that is very exciting.” said Jennifer Llamas, Immigrant Services Coordinator.

“As we see San Mateo County continue to innovate and grow, the need for workers in industries like STEM and manufacturing will continue to increase,” said Mo Kantner, Director of State and Local Initiatives at New American Economy. “By welcoming foreign-born residents with a unique range of skills, the region is making an important investment in its future.”

“We’re thrilled that San Mateo County is taking these critical steps to be an even more inclusive place for immigrants and all residents, and to be celebrating all of this during Welcoming Week,” said Molly Hilligoss, Network Director of Welcoming America. “Through initiatives like Gateways for Growth, we’ve seen the widespread benefits to communities when immigrants are able to contribute fully; San Mateo County is just one more example of this.”

The new research report, New Americans in San Mateo County finds:

  • Immigrants and refugees are helping San Mateo meet its labor force demands. As of 2019, immigrants and refugees made up 35.2 percent of the area’s overall population, represented 41.9 percent of its working-age population, and 43.4 percent of its employed labor force.
  • Immigrants and refugees are helping the region meet its rising labor in STEM and key industries. Immigrants and refugees accounted for 47.6 percent of the region’s science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) workers, over 56 percent of transportation and warehousing workers, and over 47 percent of healthcare workers — all critical industries that have been essential during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Immigrants play a particularly significant role in the region’s entrepreneurs. Immigrants represented 44.4 percent of the entrepreneurs in San Mateo County in 2019. About 17,800 immigrants worked for their own businesses, generating $946.3 million in business income.
  • Immigrants in San Mateo County help create or preserve local manufacturing jobs. Immigrants strengthened the local job market by allowing companies to keep jobs on U.S. soil, helping preserve or create 12,400 local manufacturing jobs that would have otherwise vanished or moved elsewhere by 2019.

Read the full research brief here.