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An Economic Profile of Immigrants in New York City

NYC Opportunity released "An Economic Profile of Immigrants in New York City," to provide new information about the economic status of New York City's immigrants. This new report examines labor force participation, earnings, poverty rates, and other economic measures for immigrants, broken down by categories of immigrant, including U.S. born citizens, naturalized citizens, and undocumented immigrants.

NYC Opportunity, for the first time, incorporated legal status of immigrants into an experimental version of the NYCgov Poverty Measure, the New York City-specific poverty measure that NYC Opportunity designed and updates annually. This newly created metric, NYCgov/ImmPov, will be of use to policymakers seeking to understand how poverty differs among immigrants by legal status. Non-citizens, in particular, face special economic obstacles, and poverty rates among them have been historically high.

Key Findings:

  • While the number of immigrants in New York City (3.2 million in 2016) is at an all-time high, the undocumented population has been declining. In 2016, there were 527,000 undocumented immigrants down from 672,500 in 2008 (the first year for which estimates were made).
  • The undocumented population is closely integrated into the rest of the city - 1.1 million New Yorkers live in mixed-status households, defined here as a household with at least one undocumented immigrant.
  • An overwhelming majority of the 295,700 children who lived in mixed-status households were U.S. citizens.
  • More than three-quarters of undocumented immigrants were in the labor force compared to 65 percent for the U.S. born population.
  • Despite higher labor force participation, median annual earnings for this group are significantly lower than earnings for U.S.-born citizens ($24,200 compared to $45,300).
  • Looking at poverty within the noncitizen population, not possible prior to the development of this methodology, the NYCgov/ImmPov rate for undocumented immigrants was 30.9 percent, significantly higher than the 27.1 percent for green card holders and other status.
  • Accounting for legal status generates the NYCgov/ImmPov rate of 20.0 in 2016. It is compared with the NYCgov rate of 19.5 in 2016, which does not account for status. Although the NYC/ImmPov rate is slightly higher, it is not statistically different.
Economic Profile of Immigrants