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Just Released: New Data on NYC Immigrants and Economic Security

NYC Opportunity
Mar 13, 2019 · 3 min read
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The Mayor’s Office for Economic Opportunity (NYC Opportunity) has released “An Economic Profile of Immigrants in New York City,” which provides 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 did the analysis for the report by creating a new methodology to infer immigration status based on American Community Survey (ACS) data. This allows us to take a deeper look at the foreign-born population and study the disparities that exist by legal status.

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.

New York City is home to more than 3 million immigrants, over one-half of whom are naturalized citizens. The rest of the city’s immigrants have various forms of legal status ranging from green card holder (or legal permanent resident) to undocumented immigrant. To target policies effectively, it is important to differentiate the immigrant population by legal status and to understand the experience each category of immigrant has in the workforce, with poverty, and with social welfare benefits.

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s recent pledge to provide health care to all New Yorkers regardless of immigration status is a case in point. The ACS, the largest household survey in the U.S., does not collect data on the legal status of noncitizens. As a result, it is impossible to tell from its data what portion of the uninsured population is ineligible for health insurance due to their immigration status.

Information on immigrant New Yorkers is particularly important in the current national climate. Actions being taken in Washington, in particular changes to the public charge rules, make it more necessary than ever to understand the degrees of risk or vulnerability among the immigrant population. The new data shows how deeply immigrants are folded into the fabric of our communities. More than one million New Yorkers live in households with at least one undocumented immigrant.

The methodology that we have employed to identify legal status of immigrants — which we have used to do all of this work — will continue to be refined going forward to keep up with changes in immigration policy and immigrant populations. That updating will ensure that it remains a useful tool for developing and assessing policy.

We will also continue to issue the newly created NYCgov/ImmPov rate as a distinct measure from the standard NYCgov poverty rate.

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.

To learn more, read “An Economic Profile of Immigrant in NYC”

NYC Opportunity

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