Study shows importance of immigrants and refugees to Minneapolis economy


Immigrants and refugees accounted for nearly 6% of population growth in Minneapolis between 2014 and 2019, according to a new research report. And with that growth, more consumers have driven the economy, as well as more employees in key industries.

The city of Minneapolis ordered the study to highlight the economic contributions of immigrants and refugees. Researchers and community partners hope the study will help educate local authorities on how best to serve these communities. The Minneapolis Regional Chamber and the Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs partnered with New American Economy to create the report.

New American Economy is a New York-based research agency that conducts similar research at the national, state, county, and district levels. Gateways for Growth, an initiative that provides research support and technical assistance to improve inclusion in the city, has connected the New US Economy with local agencies across the country to conduct community-level research. city.

“When we reached out to community partners, they badly need to understand their local immigrant population in depth. There has been a lack of such data, ”said Nan Wu, deputy director of quantitative research at New American Economy. “We can really fill the void by helping different cities better understand the makeup of their immigrant populations. “

Wu said the researchers used data from the American Community Survey conducted by the US Census Bureau to create their own analysis. The researchers produced estimates for different variables like employment, income, and even health insurance status. They then passed these estimates on to local partners for comment. The Minneapolis Regional Chamber was one of those partners.

“It highlights the critical role our immigrant and refugee communities play in our economy, from purchasing power to labor. There has never been a more important time to celebrate this, ”said Jonathan Weinhagen, president and CEO of the Minneapolis Regional Chamber.

The regional chamber and America’s New Economy have also reached out to Michelle Rivero, director of the city’s office for immigrant and refugee affairs.

“We reached out to community stakeholders to start talking about what residents would like to see in terms of inclusion initiatives that can be implemented at the municipal level and beyond,” Rivero said.

The nine-page report is meant to be simple enough that everyone can understand it, whether you are a decision-maker or not. But we’ve broken down some of the main takeaways here.

Immigrants and refugees have strong purchasing power

In 2019, immigrants and refugees in Minneapolis held purchasing power of $ 1.2 billion, or about 11% of the purchasing power of the region as a whole. This means that immigrants and refugees as consumers support local businesses and their workers, while paying taxes that go to the city.

“Anytime you have an aggregate group of people who control more than 10% of the spending economy, it really highlights the scale of the population,” Weinhagen said.

Wu explained why the purchasing power of immigrants and refugees is as important as it is important.

“We see immigrant refugee consumers going to local businesses to buy food and groceries. All of these dollars are pouring into local economies to support local businesses and workers, ”Wu said.“ When you have a strong consumer base, including immigrant and refugee households, it will be easier for businesses. hardest hit by COVID to rebound. “

On the business side, immigrants make up 13.2 percent of entrepreneurs in Minneapolis while constituting 14.9 percent of the population. These 2,700 immigrants working for their own businesses generated $ 37.6 million in business income in 2019.

Immigrants and Refugees Meet City’s Labor Demands

Weinhagen hopes this research will help policymakers allocate resources efficiently during post-pandemic economic recovery. Understanding immigrants and refugees in the labor market is essential for this, as they make up almost 16 percent of the city’s employed labor force.

Construction, transportation and warehousing, as well as health care and social assistance were some of the key industries in which immigrants make up more than 20 percent of the workforce. The New US Economy also estimates that immigrants and refugees in Minneapolis have helped create or preserve 2,900 manufacturing jobs that would otherwise have moved or disappeared.

Nearly 12,000 immigrants were essential workers in health care, food services and other essential services during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“These industries that are disproportionately populated by immigrants and refugees are some of the same industries that need even more workers,” Weinhagen said. “This alignment can be a really smart strategy for deploying resources.”

Anisa Hajimumin is Assistant Commissioner for Immigrant and Refugee Affairs at the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED). She’s already thinking about ways DEED can use the New US Economy report.

She noted that immigrants also make up a large portion of highly skilled workers, but struggle to find jobs that match their qualifications.

“The job we do is to bring employers and these talents to the same table to work together,” said Anisa, “so that our immigrant and refugee communities are employed in their fields, and not just for low-paying stations.

Anisa hopes this research will bridge the gap between employers looking for highly skilled workers and the immigrants and refugees she works with.

“Rather than wondering and waiting, here at DEED we are already working to create the necessary strategies that will be inclusive for our immigrant and refugee talents,” said Anisa. “If they succeed, our state succeeds.”

According to the New American Economy report, the figures show that in some industries this reconciliation is already underway. Immigrants and refugees are helping the city meet the growing demand for a science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) workforce by accounting for around 13% of STEM jobs.

Despite significant economic contributions, immigrants and refugees still face barriers

While their economic contributions are essential, Rivero added that the report also highlights more contextual information about immigrants that is just as important when making policy: languages, nationalities and immigration status. Community partners notably expressed the need for better access to languages, said Rivero.

Wu said research shows the city of Minneapolis could do a better job overcoming language barriers. The main languages ​​spoken at home other than English are Spanish, Somali, and other East African languages, as well as Hmong.

Almost 28 percent of the city’s immigrant population, or over 17,000 people, have limited language skills.

“They need more support in terms of accessing languages, through translation services or making information available in multiple languages,” Wu said. “It can be really beneficial for them to access more. ‘information and connect to more services provided by the city and other organizations. “

Rivero sends the report to stakeholders such as community leaders and policy makers so they can find ways to close this gap. She also hopes the data will inform the ordinances currently being developed by the city. For example, Rivero suggested that tenant data could influence how housing policies are shaped, and that the city could use the data to ensure it includes immigrants and refugees when educating. residents on the new prescriptions.

New American Economy is currently updating similar research for the nation’s top 100 metropolitan areas through its Map The Impact project, which tracks similar data at the national, state, county, and district levels. Wu said the agency plans to release the new data later this week.

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