Special Report

10 Best States for Immigrants

Source: Thinkstock

3. West Virginia
> Pct. foreign born: 1.5% (the lowest)
> Median household income: $48,460 (foreign-born), $41,668 (native-born)
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 45.4% (foreign-born), 18.7% (native-born)
> Green cards issued in 2015: 42.5 per 100,000 (the lowest)

Many of the states on this list have very large immigrant populations. With only 1.5% of its population born outside of the U.S., West Virginia is certainly not one of these. There were just 43 green cards issued per 100,000 West Virginians in fiscal 2015, less than one-seventh the U.S. rate.

However, that small group of West Virginians who were not born in the United States is relatively prosperous. Like in only three other states, immigrant households in the state earn a higher median income than native-born households. Also, foreign-born West Virginians are less likely to be unemployed and far more likely to have a college degree than native-born residents.

Source: Thinkstock

2. Alaska
> Pct. foreign born: 7.4% (24th highest)
> Median household income: $62,242 (foreign-born), $73,311 (native-born)
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 23.9% (foreign-born), 28.4% (native-born)
> Green cards issued in 2015: 214.4 per 100,000 (24th highest)

The poverty rate among immigrants in the United States is 18.6%, higher than the rate among U.S. natives of 15.0%. While the poverty rate among immigrants is higher than it is among native-born residents in every state, the gap in Alaska is very small. Of all immigrant state residents, 10.3% live in poverty, nearly the same as the 10.2% of U.S.-born state residents. As is the case nationwide, socioeconomic outcomes vary heavily by citizenship. Just 6.6% of foreign-born Alaskans who have been naturalized live in poverty, compared to 14.7% of non-citizen immigrants.

Unemployment tends to be lower for immigrants than U.S.-natives, and in no state is this more true than in Alaska. Only 3.2% of non-native workers in the state are unemployed, compared to 5.8% among native-born Americans living in Alaska.

Source: Thinkstock

1. California
> Pct. foreign born: 27.0% (the highest)
> Median household income: $52,438 (foreign-born), $66,670 (native-born)
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 26.3% (foreign-born), 34.4% (native-born)
> Green cards issued in 2015: 545.4 per 100,000 (4th highest)

In light of the recent crackdown by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers on illegal immigrants, California in April moved to become the first “sanctuary state.” A bill passed in the California State Senate provides greater legal protections for immigrants, such as limiting communication between local law enforcement and ICE officials.

A nation-leading 27% of state residents were not born in the United States. Approximately one in five green card grantees each year are Californians. There is a slightly higher income gap in California between U.S. natives and foreign-born residents compared to many other states on this list, but as is the case nationwide, incomes depend on region of origin and citizenship status. The state has large shares of both native Mexicans and Southeast Asians, who typically make about $33,000 more than Mexican immigrant households.