New Research Shows Immigrants in Contra Costa are Playing an Outsize Role in Several Key Industries, including 41.2 Percent of STEM, over 38 Percent of Construction, and 36.3 Percent of Hospitality

Immigrants were responsible for over 47 percent of Contra Costa County’s population growth between 2014 and 2019.

Contra Costa, CA – A new report released today by New American Economy in partnership with Contra Costa County Employment and Human Services Department and Contra Costa Health Services, underscores the critical role immigrants in Contra Costa play in population growth, business creation, and STEM innovation. Despite making up 25.6 percent of the county’s population, immigrants accounted for 32.1 percent of the county’s employed labor force and 34 percent of its business owners. In 2019 alone, immigrants in Contra Costa contributed $11.2 billion in spending power, and paid $3.6 billion in federal taxes and $1.6 billion in state and local taxes.

The new report was awarded to Contra Costa County 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. This report will be leveraged in Contra Costa County Employment and Human Services Departments’ (EHSD) and Contra Costa Health Services’(CCHS) efforts to draft a multi-sector immigrant inclusion strategy. Throughout the month of August, EHSD and CCHS will be hosting a series of focus groups to garner community feedback on how to make the county more welcoming and supportive for immigrant and marginalized communities.

“Immigrants form the foundation of this nation, and yet many find acceptance and integration challenging.  In partnership with our colleagues in the Health Department, we will use the Gateways for Growth project to create targeted strategies to open our communities and ourselves to embrace and support the newest residents in our county,” said Kathy Gallagher, Director of Employment & Human Services Department. “I am excited to join this important effort and know that our entire community will see many benefits.”

“This study shows what the Contra Costa community already knows: immigrants are critical to this county’s future,” said Mo Kantner, Director of State and Local Initiatives at New American Economy. “In addition to enriching the community’s culture, immigrants play a pivotal role in supporting population growth and bolstering the workforce in the tech, construction, hospitality, and healthcare sectors.”

“Contra Costa County’s efforts to combine data with a strategic plan demonstrate its commitment to taking a comprehensive, community-driven approach to immigrant inclusion,” said Christina Pope, Senior Network Director at Welcoming America. “By harnessing the full talents and potential of immigrant residents, the entire community of Contra Costa benefits.”

The new research report, New Americans in Contra Costa County, finds:

  • Immigration is driving population growth in Contra Costa County. Immigrants account for 47.4 percent of the population growth in Contra Costa between 2015 and 2019. Over that time period, Contra Costa’s total population grew by 3.8 percent and its immigrant population grew by 7.3 percent. As of 2019, immigrants made up 25.6 percent of the total population.
  • Immigrants’ spending power has helped revitalize local businesses. Immigrants punch above their weight when it comes to their power as consumers. In 2019, they held close to $11.2 billion in disposable income, or 28.5 percent of the county’s total spending power. Robust consumer spending by immigrants supports small businesses and keeps local economic corridors vibrant..
  • Immigrants are helping the county’s meet its rising labor demand in the STEM sector. Despite making up just 25.6 percent of the overall population, immigrants represented 32.1 percent of the employed labor force in Contra Costa in 2019. Immigrant residents also made up 41.2 percent of the county’s STEM workers.
  • Immigrants play a particularly significant role in the county as entrepreneurs. Immigrants represented 34 percent of the entrepreneurs in the county in 2019. About 19,700 immigrant individuals worked for their own businesses, generating $674.3 million in business income. 32.2 percent of immigrant entrepreneurs owned businesses in professional services and 13.1 percent worked in health care and social assistance.
  • Immigrants are bringing much-needed talent. In 2019, 18.1 percent of the immigrants held an advanced degree, compared with 17.5 percent of the U.S.-born population in Contra Costa County.

Read the full research brief here.