Immigration Expands in Indiana

STEM GradWith a 57.9 percent growth rate in the immigrant population in just over a decade, diversity in the state of Indiana is on a healthy upward trajectory. Reaching a population of more than 300,000 in 2011, the Hoosier state’s immigrant population has shifted from origins primarily in Western Europe to a demographic dominated by origins in Mexico, India and China.

Through the 1960’s, most immigrants settling in Indiana hailed from Western Europe. According to numbers from the Pew Hispanic Center, the trend shifted in the 1990’s, putting Mexican nationals in the lead in terms of immigrant demographics. Mexican-born immigrants now comprise 36.6 percent of the state’s foreign-born population.

According to a Map the Impact report, 4.6 percent of Indiana’s population is comprised of immigrants. Interestingly, immigrant business ownership in the state measures at 5.2 percent. Immigrants’ overrepresentation in business ownership generated an average of $721 million in business income from 2006 to 2010.

The Map the Impact report, a project sponsored by The Partnership for a New American Economy, likewise makes a strong case for an immigrant workforce. According to Map the Impact, Regional Economic Models Inc. (REMI) determined that undocumented immigrants who enroll in a legal path to citizenship will generate more than 7,600 jobs and generate more than $630 million for the state by the end of this decade.

Further positive economic effects likewise occur with the expansion of H-1B visas for highly skilled workers. With this, REMI estimates an additional 3,200 jobs would be added to the state’s employment rolls, bringing in more than $279 million to the Gross State Product.

With top research institutions in the state—like Purdue University and the Indiana University system—science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) is likewise a critical component in Indiana. Immigrants are again critical in this realm as nearly half—47.1 percent– of Indiana’s STEM students who were working toward Master’s or PhD degrees in 2009 were foreign born.

A particularly sticky point where the STEM fields are concerned is too often students in these programs end up leaving the state because these gifted students have no clear path to stay in the United States after graduating. The equation amounts to a dearth of workers who are skilled in technology and innovation—skill sets needed to move the state’s economy forward.