Special Report

10 Best States for Immigrants

Source: Thinkstock

7. Nevada
> Pct. foreign born: 19.2% (5th highest)
> Median household income: $45,593 (foreign-born), $53,809 (native-born)
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 19.0% (foreign-born), 24.4% (native-born)
> Green cards issued in 2015: 394.9 per 100,000 (7th highest)

About 19% of Nevada’s population is foreign-born, compared to roughly 13% of the U.S. population. Just over 40% of this group was born in Mexico. Likely in part because remaining in the United States without employment can result in deportation, immigrants in the United States are less likely to be unemployed than native-borns. In Nevada, the unemployment rate for foreign-born residents is 5.9%, compared to a 7.0% jobless rate for native-born residents. As is the case throughout the country, being a naturalized immigrant in Nevada tends to correspond to a much better life than those for who remain non-U.S. citizens. For example, 23% of non-citizens in the state live in poverty, compared to 10% of Nevadans who have have been naturalized.

Source: Thinkstock

6. New Jersey
> Pct. foreign born: 21.7% (3rd highest)
> Median household income: $65,683 (foreign-born), $74,306 (native-born)
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 36.9% (foreign-born), 36.7% (native-born)
> Green cards issued in 2015: 559.3 per 100,000 (3rd highest)

When a state has a large share of foreign-born residents, it may be indicative of greater tolerance for other cultures. Many such states contain substantial communities of fellow immigrants that can help others with the process of assimilation into American life. In New Jersey, over one in five residents is foreign born, more than in all but two other states.

New Jersey’s foreign-born population — both those who are naturalized and those who are not — is one of the least likely of any state to live in poverty. Immigrants who reside in the Garden State tend to have relatively high educational attainment, which tends to correlate with higher earning potential. About 37% of Jersey’s foreign-born residents have a bachelor’s degree, some 8 percentage points higher than the national college attainment rate among immigrants.

Source: Thinkstock

5. New York
> Pct. foreign born: 22.5% (2nd highest)
> Median household income: $51,377 (foreign-born), $61,939 (native-born)
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 29.4% (foreign-born), 36.2% (native-born)
> Green cards issued in 2015: 660.8 per 100,000 (the highest)

In New York, 22.5% of the population is foreign born, second only to California. Largely because there are so many immigrants in the state, more people receive green cards on an annual basis in New York than in any other state. Some 661 green cards were issued per 100,000 state residents in the government’s 2015 fiscal year, almost exactly double the national rate. The earnings gap between immigrants and U.S. natives in the state is higher than most. The median income of native-born households is about $10,000 more than the median for foreign-born households. However, because incomes are generally higher in New York state, the typical immigrant household income is still slightly higher than the national median for immigrants.

Source: Thinkstock

4. Virginia
> Pct. foreign born: 11.7% (15th highest)
> Median household income: $70,835 (foreign-born), $64,236 (native-born)
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 40.7% (foreign-born), 35.6% (native-born)
> Green cards issued in 2015: 334.5 per 100,000 (12th highest)

Virginia is one of just four states in which a foreign-born resident can reasonably expect not only to have a good income, but also to earn more than those born in the United States. The typical non-U.S. native Virginia household earns close to $71,000 a year, more than the $64,000 median for U.S.-native households. This is both the second largest positive income gap and the second highest median earnings for immigrants of any state. However, as is the case nationwide, those foreign-born Virginians who have not been granted citizenship are in a significantly different class of success. The median household income for this group is about $57,000 a year.