Report: Immigrants Drive Michigan’s Population, Economic Growth


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According to MEC's report, Michigan's legal immigrant population is currently 650,000.

Photo Courtesy: Michigan Economic Center

The Michigan Economic Center (MEC) in Ann Arbor and Global Detroit today released a new study entitled Michigan: We Are All Immigrants Here, which details the history of immigrant contributions to Michigan’s economy and population.

The study notes that Michigan’s legal immigrant population has increased 24.5 percent in the last 15 years, totaling today at 650,000 foreign-born residents. Michigan’s native-born population has declined 1.5 percent during the same period, and Detroit’s immigrant population increased 13 percent from 2010-2014, while other populations declined.

Additionally, the study indicates that despite comprising 6 percent of the population, immigrants account for 8 percent Michigan entrepreneurs, owning 31,000 firms and employing 150,000 people statewide. Immigrants are also reportedly credited with starting 25 percent of Michigan’s high-tech startups, 76 percent of patents issued to top in-state research universities, and nearly 25 percent of software developer, doctor, and engineering jobs.

The report also found that more than 40 percent of Michigan immigrants (and 60 percent of those arriving since 2010) have a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to 27 percent of native Michigan residents. Immigrants also account for 15 percent of Michigan’s STEM workers and 39 percent of STEM doctoral students are international students on temporary visas.

“Michigan’s immigrant community punches above its’ weight in terms of new innovation and business development, raising the education and skill level of our workforce, and increasing population in our communities – all of which drive job growth,” says John Austin, MEC director and lead author of the study. “Michigan relies on legal immigrants to grow our economy, and we literally can’t afford policies that discourage them from coming, or that chase away those that are here.”

The study builds on similar findings from a 2010 report by Steve Tobocman that launched Global Detroit, an immigrant economic development initiative for metro Detroit. The report also details the negative economic impact of President Donald Trump’s rhetoric and policies regarding immigration, which Austin says “threaten to undercut and undermine” the efforts of Gov. Rick Snyder, many Michigan mayors, elected officials, and civic leaders who have been working to make Michigan immigrant-friendly for economic reasons. 

“Travel bans, immigration raids, walking back immigrant visa policies, all work together to freeze and ultimately reverse the flow of new people, new ideas, new entrepreneurial energy, and new global connections that have been Michigan’s economic lifeblood in recent years,” says Tobocman, Global Detroit’s director and study co-author. “Michigan and Detroit would have kept losing population in the past decade if not for immigrants, and we depend on them to rebuild communities, start new businesses, and put people to work.”

The full report can be found here

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