New Report Shows Immigrants in the City of Los Angeles Paid nearly $15 Billion in Taxes and Held More Than $38 Billion in Spending Power

Immigrants in the city are over 23 percent more likely to be of working age than their U.S.-born counterparts and make up nearly 72 percent of the essential services workforce.

LOS ANGELES, CA – A new report released today by New American Economy in partnership with the City of Los Angeles Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs and the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA) underscores the crucial role immigrants in Los Angeles play as essential workers, economic contributors, and business owners. Despite making up 36.3 percent of Los Angeles’ total population, immigrants accounted for 51.4 percent of the city’s business owners and 71.7 percent of the essential services workforce. In 2019 alone, immigrants in the city held $38.3 billion in spending power, and paid $9.6 billion in federal taxes and $5 billion in state and local taxes.

The new report was awarded to the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs and CHIRLA 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.

“Los Angeles has always been a proud city of immigrants — a place where people from across the globe contribute to our social, economic, cultural, and political life,” said Mayor Eric Garcetti. “This report confirms what we already knew: immigrant and refugee Angelenos are essential to our city life, and we will continue to invest in efforts to support their success in the thriving city they have helped to build.”

“Immigrants have long been the roaring motors that power the fifth largest economy in the world. In these trying times, it is immigrant hands and immigrant ingenuity that has kept the City of Los Angeles, California, and the nation afloat and taken care of,” said Angelica Salas, Executive Director of CHIRLA. “Our essential work and crucial contributions are not temporary and that’s why immigrants, especially undocumented immigrants, must be recognized as permanent and key partners in our nation’s progress.”

“This report highlights what Angelenos already know: immigrants make vital contributions to the economy, the workforce, and the very fabric of life across the city,” said Leani García Torres, Associate Director of State and Local Initiatives at New American Economy. “The city’s efforts to welcome immigrants and uplift their diverse skills, talents, and contributions is crucial to a sustainable and equitable recovery.”

“Los Angeles continues to be an example for how communities can effectively harness the talent of immigrants to create greater prosperity for all residents,” said Molly Hilligoss, Network Director of Welcoming America. “We’re thrilled to work with Welcoming Network members the City of Los Angeles and CHIRLA on the Gateways for Growth Challenge to make the City of Angels an even more welcoming place for the future.”

The new research report, New Americans in the City of Los Angeles, finds:

  • Immigrants are helping the city meet its labor force demands. In 2019, immigrants accounted for 36.3 percent of the city’s total population, representing 41.3 percent of the working-age population, and 43.1 percent of its employed labor force.
  • Immigrants and refugees are helping the region meet its rising labor force needs in STEM and key industries. Immigrants and refugees accounted for 36 percent of the region’s science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) workers, 71.7 percent of essential services workers, and 55.9 percent of food manufacturing workers — all critical industries that have been essential during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Immigrants play a significant role in the city as entrepreneurs. Immigrants represented 51.4 percent of business owners in the city in 2019, generating $4.3 billion in business income.
  • Immigrants in the city of Los Angeles help create or preserve local manufacturing jobs. Because of the role immigrants play in the workforce helping companies keep jobs on U.S. soil, immigrants in the city helped create or preserve approximately 66,500 manufacturing jobs that would have otherwise vanished or moved elsewhere.
  • Immigrant households support the federal safety net. The foreign-born contributed $4.8 billion to Social Security and $1.3 billion to Medicare in 2019.

Read the full research brief here.