Impact of immigration on Georgia economy: not huge, but wide

Feb 01, 2018
Gulshan Harjee, who grew up in Tanzania, speaks to the Georgia Senate in January as Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle (background) looks on. She graduated from Morehouse School of Medicine. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Georgia may not be one of the states with the highest percentage of immigrants, but their economic impact here is stronger than average, according to a report issued Thursday.

Overall, the state ranks 20th in the country in terms of the impact of immigrants, using 19 metrics, according to WalletHub, consumer credit and data company.

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Channel 2's Investigative Reporter Aaron Diamant says the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling on immigration will have a significant impact on metro Atlanta. Photo:

With immigration getting so much national attention, the company wanted to see which states were most affected, the report said. “Political differences aside, there’s no question that immigration as a whole affects the economy.”

Using 19 metrics, the company ranked the 50 states and Washington, D.C., where WalletHub is based.

Georgia scored highest on the share of foreign born workers with work visas: seventh highest in the nation. The state scored lowest on the share of households that are headed by second-generation immigrants.

Most metrics used by WalletHub did not rank states by the number of immigrants or the total impact, only by the share.

Even so, two of the most-populous states placed at the top. New York ranked first, followed by California. Filling out the top five were New Jersey, Massachusetts and Delaware.

Those who favor restrictions on immigration sometimes argue that fewer immigrants will mean higher wages for American-born workers. Regarding undocumented immigrants, they say deportation or restrictions are necessary for legal reasons, regardless of the economics.

Banji Oyebisi who came to the United States from Nigeria on the diversity visa lottery program in 1996, shown in November at his Dunwoody home. (John Amis) Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Georgia has seen solid and steady job growth for about seven years. Metro Atlanta, for example, added 55,600 jobs last year while the unemployment rate dipped to 4.1 percent.

In a time when labor markets are tight and some employers complain they have trouble finding the workers they need, some economists say restrictions may dampen the economy.

“One of the concerns I have is that we are not considering what the long-term implications will be for our communities,” said Katie Acosta, professor of sociology at Georgia State University.

“We have immigrants here from across the whole spectrum,” from farm workers to well-paid doctors, she said.

The median income of a foreign-born household in Georgia is $49,314, compared to the overall median of about $51,000.

Immigrants facing deportation are being held at the Stewart Detention Center south of Atlanta. More U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainees are now being held at a separate detention center in Folkston, Ga., through a five-year contract signed by the federal government and Charlton County. ICE moved this week to cancel that contract but then said it was reevaluating that decision. Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

According to the WalletHub report:

Highest economic impact from immigration:

1. New York

2. California

3. New Jersey

4. Massachusetts

5. Delaware

6. District of Columbia

7. Maryland

8. Illinois

9. Connecticut

10. Washington

20 Georgia

Source: WalletHub

Georgia immigration economics

Share of doctors who were trained overseas: 22 percent

Share of population foreign born: 9.85 percent

Median household income of immigrants: $49,314

Share of STEM workers who are foreign born: 23 percent

Foreign born students: 3 percent

Source: WalletHub


AJC Business reporter Michael E. Kanell keeps you updated on the latest news about jobs, housing and consumer issues in metro Atlanta and beyond. You'll find more on, including these stories:

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