New Americans in Kent County

A new report from NAE shows that immigrants in Kent County contributed $3.3 billion to the county’s GDP in 2016 and paid $214 million in federal taxes and $102 million in state and local taxes. The report, New Americans in Kent County, was prepared in partnership with Samaritas, the City of Grand Rapids, the Grand Rapids Chamber, the West Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and The Right Place.

In addition to their financial contributions, the report shows the foreign-born population’s role as contributors to the workforce in Kent County, and as drivers of population growth. Although the foreign-born made up 8.0 percent of the county’s overall population in 2016, they represented 9.9 percent of its working-age population (people ages 16-64), 9.4 percent of its employed labor force, and 9.9 percent of its STEM workers. Immigrants were also responsible for a quarter of population growth in the county between 2011 and 2016. 

The report also features profiles of five Kent County immigrants: Ramesh and Sonal Patel, Ruben Ramos, Natalia Kovicak, and RC Caylan.

New Americans in Kent County finds:

  • Immigrants contributed $3.3 billion to Kent County’s GDP in 2016. Immigrant households earned $1.3 billion in income in 2016 and held $943.7 million in spending power.
  • Given their income, immigrants contributed significantly to federal, state, and local taxes. Immigrants paid $219.4 million in federal taxes and $101.5 million in state and local taxes in 2016.
  • Immigrants were responsible for 24.1 percent of population growth in Kent County between 2011 and 2016. Over those five years, the total population increased by 4.6 percent, while the immigrant population increased by 15.3 percent.
  • Despite making up just 8.0 percent of the overall population in the county, immigrants played an outsize role in the labor force in 2016. Foreign-born workers represented 9.9 percent of the working-age population 4 percent of its employed labor force, and 9.9 percent of all workers in in Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) fields in Kent County.
  • Immigrants in Kent County were more likely than their U.S.-born counterparts to have an advanced degree in 2016. 8 percent of immigrants had an advanced degree in 2016, compared to 11.3 percent of the U.S.-born.
  • Immigrants play an outsize role in several key industries in the area. Though they are 8.0 percent of the population, foreign-born workers made up 15.1 percent of all workers in the manufacturing industry and 11.1 percent of workers in the hospitality and recreation industry.
  • Nearly half—41.3 percent— of immigrants and refugees in Kent County were naturalized citizens in 2016.

Read the complete brief here.

Grand Rapids is one of 44 communities selected for the Gateways for Growth Challenge, a competitive opportunity from New American Economy and Welcoming America where local communities receive tailored research on the contributions of immigrants, direct technical assistance to develop multi-sector plans for welcoming and integrating immigrants, or matching grants.

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