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New Research Shows Immigrants Play an Outsized Role in the Local Economy and Make Miami-Dade Thrive

(AP Foto/Alan Diaz)

Miami-Dade County and The Office of New Americans (ONA) today released a new report providing key details on how immigrants power the local economy. While immigrants comprise most of Miami-Dade’s essential workers, critical during the pandemic, they will be key to economic recovery by playing a significant role in driving innovation and job growth.  As of 2019, immigrants held 61.5% of STEM jobs and made up over 73 percent of Miami-Dade business owners, generating over $2.9 billion in business income.

The report, produced by New American Economy, underscores the critical role immigrants play in a range of areas, including population growth, essential services, and business creation in Miami-Dade county.  

“This report confirms what we’ve always known: immigrants are a part of the heart of what makes Miami-Dade thrive. During the hardest times of the pandemic, immigrants kept our county running as essential farmworkers, healthcare workers, hospitality workers, and more, and will continue to power our economic recovery as entrepreneurs, workers, and consumers,” said County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava. “We are proud to release this report that puts a well-deserved spotlight on the real contributions of immigrants to our economy, our culture, and our community, and gives us new insights to consider for future policy-making.”

Among the findings in the report, “New Americans in Miami-Dade County”: 

  • Immigrants are helping the county meet its rising labor needs in STEM and other critical industries. Despite making up 54.7 percent of the overall population, immigrants represented 65 percent of the employed labor force in Miami-Dade in 2019. Immigrant residents also made up 86.4 percent of agriculture, 76.9 percent of manufacturing, and 61.5 percent of STEM workers.

  • 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 $33.9 billion in disposable income, or 60.3 percent of the county’s total spending power. Robust consumer spending by immigrants supports small businesses and keeps local economic corridors vibrant.

  • Immigrants play a particularly significant role in the county as entrepreneurs. Immigrants represented 73.9 percent of the entrepreneurs in the county in 2019. About 145,100 immigrant individuals worked for their own businesses, generating $2.9 billion in business income. 

  • Immigrants are bringing much-needed talent. In 2019, 13,394 students enrolled in colleges and universities in Miami-Dade county were immigrants. International students in Miami-Dade county helped support 4,627 jobs and contributed over $424 million to the local economy in 2019-20 alone.  

  • Immigration is driving population growth in Miami-Dade County. Without immigrants, the county’s total population would have shrunk by 2.5 percent between 2015 and 2019. Over that time period, Miami-Dade county’s total population grew by 1.8 percent and its immigrant population grew by 8.4 percent. As of 2019, immigrants made up 54.7 percent of the total population.

  • Immigrant households support federal social programs. The foreign-born contributed $4.3 billion to Social Security and $1.1 billion  to Medicare in 2019.

Read the full research brief here.

Our commissioned report shows that Miami-Dade County is a vibrant  immigrant-majority, multi-racial, multi-ethnic, multi-lingual community that serves as a reflection of  the future of America. Immigrants are essential to Miami-Dade’s economy and are the heart of our community, irrespective of race, gender, income and immigration status,  said Krystina François, Executive Director of the Office of New Americans of Miami-Dade.  It is clear that we need to invest in intentional immigrant integration policies and practices across all sectors to ensure that our county thrives.

The new report was awarded to the Miami-Dade County’s Office of New Americans 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. Miami-Dade County’s Office of New Americans and New American Economy released the new report at an event at the Perez Art Museum Miami, bringing together leaders across sectors to ensure that Miami-Dade welcomes and harnesses the potential of all its residents. Speakers included Mayor Levine Cava, Francois, and attorney and community leader Marlon Hill. 

The county and the Office of New Americans will use data from this report to draft a multi-sector strategy to more deeply include immigrants in community life, to be released this fall. 

“The over 1.5 million immigrants that call Miami-Dade home are the lifeblood of the county’s economy,” said Mo Kantner, Director of State and Local Initiatives at New American Economy. “Immigrants are playing a critical role in bolstering the county’s workforce, and revitalizing its small business corridors. The county’s strategic planning efforts will help ensure that Miami-Dade continues to reap the benefits, and create a community that welcomes and supports all newcomers.”

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About Miami-Dade County’s Office of New Americans

The Office of New Americans of Miami-Dade’s (ONA) is a county-wide initiative to assist our immigrant residents overcome any barriers on their path to full citizenship. Its mission is to empower immigrants eligible for naturalization and other immigration benefits to become more civically and economically engaged in our communities by facilitating access to the resources they need to attain citizenship and to prosper.  www.miamidade.gov/citzenship 

About New American Economy

New American Economy (NAE) is a bipartisan research and advocacy organization founded to educate, empower and support policymakers, influencers, and citizens across the country that see the economic and social benefits of a smart approach to immigration reform. NAE has created a coalition of civic, business, and cultural leaders who span the political spectrum and represent all 50 states. NAE makes the case for smart immigration reform in four ways: 1) we use powerful research to demonstrate how immigration impacts our economy, 2) we organize champions at the grassroots and influencer levels to build support for immigration, 3) we partner with state and local leaders to advocate for policies that recognize the value immigrants add locally, and 4) we show immigrant contributions to American culture through film, food, art, sports, comedy, and more. Visit www.NewAmericanEconomy.org to learn more.

About Welcoming America

Welcoming America is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that leads a movement of inclusive communities becoming more prosperous by ensuring everyone belongs. We believe that all people, including immigrants, are valued contributors and vital to the success of our communities and shared future. Through the Welcoming Network, we work to change systems and culture by providing communities the roadmap they need to create welcoming policies and share new approaches to inclusion to create an environment where everyone can truly thrive. Learn more at welcomingamerica.org

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