Immigration and Covid-19

As government officials, journalists, advocates, business leaders, essential workers, and concerned community members, we know that you are fighting to respond effectively and safely to the Covid-19 public health crisis. NAE is working to produce the latest estimates that show how immigrants are part of America’s fight and response to the Covid-19 health crisis.

We will be updating this page every week with new information on immigrants and Covid-19. Have questions? Reach out to us anytime and we’ll get back to you right away: info@newamericaneconomy.org

View past NAE Immigration and Healthcare research reports here.

See a preview of more research to come here.

Learn more about local government efforts to include immigrants in Covid-19 emergency responses here.

See how you can support local immigrant-serving organizations here


Here’s what we know so far:

As 16.5% of all healthcare workers, immigrants are fighting on the front lines of the Covid-19 crisis.

Immigrants of working age, many of whom are on the front lines of the pandemic, are making up for aging workforces in every state in the country. Explore the data in our latest data interactive.

Immigrants also make up significant shares of all:

  • Home Health Aides (36.5% immigrant)
  • Physicians (28.7%)
  • Personal Care Aides (25.1%)
  • Nursing Assistants (22.0%)
  • Surgeons (19.7%)
  • Registered Nurses (15.7%)
  • Respiratory Therapists (13.6%)
  • Psychiatrists (32%)

Source: NAE analysis of the AMA Masterfile, 2015 and the American Community Survey, 2018.

Selected Occupations in the Healthcare Industry

U.S.-Born Immigrant Total Share Immigrant
Home Health Aides 274,620 157,592 432,212 36.5%
Physicians 582,019 234,331 816,350 28.7%
Personal Care Aides 434,675 145,350 580,025 25.1%
Nursing Assistants 946,287 266,273 1,212,560 22.0%
Surgeons 40,463 9,918 50,381 19.7%
Clinical Laboratory Technicians 237,335 58,013 295,348 19.6%
Registered Nurses 2,471,435 461,409 2,932,844 15.7%
Medical Assistants 439,269 80,201 519,470 15.4%
Licensed Practical and Vocational Nurses 638,380 111,462 749,842 14.9%
Respiratory Therapists 92,968 14,593 107,561 13.6%
Nurse Practitioners 162,155 21,943 184,098 11.9%
Emergency Medical Technicians 94,678 5,413 100,091 5.4%
Paramedics 63,137 3,130 66,267 4.7%
Source: 2018 American Community Survey

Immigrants are also working in critical support industries:

  • Grocery and Supermarket workers (16.7% immigrant)
  • Food Delivery workers (18.2% immigrant) 

Immigrant women in particular are a critical part of the healthcare workforce:

  • 1 in 5 Nursing, Psychiatric, and Home Health Aides
  • 1 in 8 Registered Nurses
  • 1 in 5 Personal Care Aides

Immigrant healthcare workers are more important than ever as the U.S. faces shortages in key sectors:

  • In 2018, there were more than 27 open healthcare practitioner jobs for every available unemployed health care practitioner. Overall, there were almost 13 open healthcare job openings for every available unemployed healthcare worker.
  • Rural areas were already experiencing doctor shortages before the crisis. As early as 2015, there were 135 counties in 27 states with no doctors in the United States. Doctors in rural counties were also far likelier to be older and closer to retirement, meaning the number of counties with no doctors in the future may rise significantly.
  • More than 60 percent of all counties in the United States—including 80 percent of all rural counties—do not have a single psychiatrist. 

Immigrants are helping make the supplies America needs to fight Covid-19:

Immigrants in Biomedical Manufacturing

U.S.-born Workers Immigrant Workers Total Workers Immigrant Share
Pharmaceutical and Medicine Manufacturing 400,994 132,307 533,301 24.8%
Medical Equipment and Supplies Manufacturing 474,620 148,941 623,561 23.9%
Source: 2018 American Community Survey

As the spread of the coronavirus has led to increased xenophobia, we are looking at the role of Asian American and Pacific Islanders in the healthcare workforce:

Asian American and Pacific Islander Healthcare Workers by State

AAPI Total Share AAPI
United States 1,587,778 17,139,845 9.3%
Hawaii 47,455 65,851 72.1%
California 482,059 1,757,181 27.4%
Nevada 24,641 118,614 20.8%
Washington 53,096 369,865 14.4%
New Jersey 69,056 504,184 13.7%
New York 153,815 1,173,325 13.1%
Alaska 4,156 36,467 11.4%
Illinois 74,758 678,567 11.0%
Maryland 32,929 343,566 9.6%
Texas 123,509 1,341,785 9.2%
Source: 2018 American Community Survey

AAPI Workers by Healthcare Occupation

Occupation AAPI Total Share AAPI
Physicians 216,558 909,628 23.8%
Surgeons 7,511 54,435 13.8%
Clinical Laboratory Technicians 43,874 338,706 13.0%
Registered Nurses 350,048 3,315,298 10.6%
Personal Care Aides 151,151 1,465,550 10.3%
Nurse Practitioners 18,019 202,513 8.9%
Respiratory Therapists 9,818 111,866 8.8%
Home Health Aides 38,219 494,008 7.7%
Nursing Assistants 98,542 1,444,266 6.8%
Medical Assistants 36,280 557,442 6.5%
Source: 2018 American Community Survey


NAE Immigrant and Healthcare Resources:


Upcoming Research:

  • Based on an NYTimes analysis of the jobs most at-risk of contracting Covid-19, we’ll look further at how immigrants, especially the hundreds of thousands of healthcare workers, are on the front line of this crisis.
  • Aside from frontline healthcare workers, immigrants are critical to other essential industries as well. From biotech manufacturers and researchers, to restaurants, to grocers, to delivery services and logistics specialists, we’ll take a closer look at these industries and the role that immigrants play in each.
  • Using Burning Glass Technologies data on job postings, NAE will regularly analyze in real-time how demand for healthcare and other technical and support jobs is increasing at a national and state level. Already, we know that there are far more job openings for healthcare practitioners than there are available workers (more than 27 openings for every 1 available worker). With health needs rising, demand is expected to soar.
  • We’ll continue analyzing the role Asian Americans play in the healthcare industry and as healthcare practitioners and support workers.
  • With a Supreme Court decision coming as early as next month, the future of DACA-eligible immigrants remains uncertain, even those who work in critical care roles and in industries that Americans rely on today. NAE will produce estimates nationally and for CA, TX, NY, FL, and IL showing how important DACA-eligible immigrants are for the economy and the health of the nation.

About Us

New American Economy is a bipartisan research and advocacy organization fighting for smart federal, state, and local immigration policies that help grow our economy and create jobs for all Americans. More…