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New Americans in Tennessee

Tennessee ThumbThe Political and Economic Power of Immigrants, Latinos, and Asians in the Volunteer State (Updated May 2014)

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Immigrants, Latinos, and Asians account for large and growing shares of the economy and population in Tennessee. Immigrants (the foreign-born) make up roughly 4.8% of the state’s population, and more than one-third of them are naturalized U.S. citizens who are eligible to vote. Latinos and Asians (both foreign-born and native-born) account for 1 in 16 Tennesseans and wield $10.9 billion in consumer purchasing power. At last count, the sales and receipts of businesses owned by Latinos and Asians totaled $5.4 billion and employed more than 38,000 people. At a time when the economy is still recovering, Tennessee can ill-afford to alienate such a critical component of its labor force, tax base, and business community.

Immigrants and their children are growing shares of Tennessee’s population and electorate.

  • The foreign-born share of Tennessee’s population rose from 1.2% in 1990, to 2.8% in 2000, to 4.8% in 2011, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Tennessee was home to 306,676 immigrants in 2011, which is more than the total population of Saint Paul, Minnesota.
  • 34.6% of immigrants (or 106,035 people) in Tennessee were naturalized U.S. citizens in 2011—meaning that they are eligible to vote.
  • Unauthorized immigrants comprised roughly 2.2% of the state’s population (or 140,000 people) in 2010, according to a report by the Pew Hispanic Center.
  • 3% (or 87,629) of all registered voters in Tennessee are “New Americans”—naturalized citizens or the U.S.-born children of immigrants who were raised during the current era of immigration from Latin America and Asia which began in 1965—according to an analysis of 2008 Census Bureau data by Rob Paral & Associates.

1 in 16 Tennesseans are Latino or Asian—and they vote.

  • The Latino share of Tennessee’s population grew from 0.7% in 1990, to 2.2% in 2000, to 4.6% (or 296,370 people) in 2011. The Asian share of the population grew from 0.6% in 1990, to 1.0% in 2000, to 1.4% (or 92,286 people) in 2011, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
  • Latinos comprised 1.4% (or 34,000) of Tennessee voters in the 2008 elections, and Asians 0.7% (or 18,000), according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
  • In Tennessee, 85.4% of children with immigrant parents were U.S. citizens in 2009, according to data from the Urban Institute.
  • In 2009, 89% of children in Asian families in Tennessee were U.S. citizens, as were 87.1% of children in Latino families.

Latino and Asian entrepreneurs and consumers add billions of dollars and thousands of jobs to Tennessee’s economy.

  • The 2012 purchasing power of Tennessee’s Latinos totaled $6.1 billion—an increase of 1,450.5% since 1990. Asian buying power totaled $4.8 billion—an increase of 909.1% since 1990, according to the Selig Center for Economic Growth at the University of Georgia.
  • Tennessee’s 11,178 Asian-owned businesses had sales and receipts of $3.6 billion and employed 26,402 people in 2007, the last year for which data is available. The state’s 8,700 Latino-owned businesses had sales and receipts of $1.8 billion and employed 12,074 people in 2007, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Survey of Business Owners.

Immigrants are essential to Tennessee’s economy as workers.

  • Immigrants comprised 6.4% of the state’s workforce in 2011 (or 199,367 workers), according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
  • Unauthorized immigrants comprised 3.1% of the state’s workforce in 2010 (or 95,000 workers), according to a report by the Pew Hispanic Center.
  • If all unauthorized immigrants were removed from Tennessee, the state would lose $3.8 billion in economic activity, $1.7 billion in gross state product, and approximately 25,919 jobs, even accounting for adequate market adjustment time, according to a report by the Perryman Group.

Unauthorized immigrants pay taxes. 

  • Unauthorized immigrants in Tennessee paid $133 million in state and local taxes in 2010, including $123.2 million in sales taxes and $9.9 million in property taxes, according to data from the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy. 
  • Were unauthorized immigrants in Tennessee to have legal status, they would pay $141.3 million in state and local taxes, including $130.8 million in sales taxes and $10.5 million in property taxes.

Immigrants are integral to Tennessee’s economy as students.

Naturalized citizens excel educationally.

  • In Tennessee, 34.1% of foreign-born persons who were naturalized U.S. citizens in 2011 had a bachelor’s or higher degree, compared to 23.8% of noncitizens. Only 17.8% of naturalized citizens lacked a high-school diploma, compared to 34.8% of noncitizens.
  • The number of immigrants in Tennessee with a college degree increased by 84.8% between 2000 and 2011, according to data from the Migration Policy Institute.
  • 27.8% of Tennessee’s foreign-born population age 25 and older had a bachelor’s or higher degree in 2011, compared to 23.4% of native-born persons age 25 and older.
  • In Tennessee, 84.7% of children with immigrant parents were considered “English proficient” as of 2009, according to data from the Urban Institute.
  • The English proficiency rate among Asian children in Tennessee was 92.1%, while for Latino children it was 82.1%, as of 2009.

Published On: Fri, Jan 11, 2013 | Download File