Cities & States with the Biggest Immigrant Pay Gap

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Updated 3/18/2024

According to a recent report using data from the US Census Bureau, there were 2.7 million more workers in the US labor force during the 4th quarter of 2023 compared to the 4th quarter of 2019. 

While this is good news for the economy, all job gains post-COVID-19 have gone to immigrants – both legal and illegal. More specifically, more than 2.9 million immigrants have entered the workforce while there are 183k fewer US-born employed workers than before the pandemic.

With this in mind, researchers at analyzed data from the US Census Bureau to see how immigrant wages compare to native-born citizens. They discovered the following.

Data on immigrants and their impact on the labor force is spotty

The Census Bureau accepts survey results from the entire foreign-born population regardless of citizenship or legal status but they do not distinguish between the two groups of immigrants in their reporting. While this helps paint a more accurate picture than only including legal immigrants, there is evidence that many illegal immigrants do not participate in the census and are therefore undercounted – impacting both labor force and wage statistics.

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The labor force has increasingly relied on immigrant labor since 2005

While there have been occasional dips, the long-term trend has been the labor force increasingly relying on immigrant labor.

States like California, New York, Texas, and Florida rely the most heavily on immigrant labor – with nearly 1 out of every 3 workers in California being an immigrant.

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Most immigrants are highly educated… or not at all

While immigrants are more likely than native-born Americans to hold a graduate or professional degree, they are also over 3 times more likely to have less than a high school education.

The immigrant wage gap exists, but not everywhere

Nationally, immigrants earn $2,076 less than native citizens. However, immigrants earn more than native-born workers in 18 states.

Immigrants in West Virginia outearn native-born workers by more than $10k each year.

Cities with the largest immigrant pay gap

City Immigrant Pay Gap Native Born Median Pay Foreign Born Median Pay
Alexandria, VA -$42,055 $86,633 $44,578
San Francisco, CA -$33,795 $78,744 $44,949
Alameda, CA -$31,237 $71,042 $39,805
Miami Beach, FL -$27,725 $58,803 $31,078
Santa Monica, CA -$26,684 $70,113 $43,429
Oakland, CA -$25,363 $57,686 $32,323
Alhambra, CA -$24,935 $51,749 $26,814
Weston, FL -$24,055 $63,793 $39,738
Stamford, CT -$23,875 $58,523 $34,648
Chino, California -$23,215 $48,537 $25,322

Cities with the biggest immigrant pay premium

City Immigrant Pay Premium Native Born Median Pay Foreign Born Median Pay
Sammamish, WA $92,835 $71,774 $164,609
Redmond, WA $85,766 $54,505 $140,271
Pleasanton, CA $73,468 $82,444 $155,912
Dublin, CA $62,137 $66,640 $128,777
Novi, MI $50,092 $47,541 $97,633
Santa Clara, CA $45,651 $60,088 $105,739
Fremont, CA $45,275 $55,072 $100,347
San Ramon, CA $39,823 $81,027 $120,850
Leander, TX $39,774 $54,954 $94,728
Sunnyvale, CA $39,232 $61,267 $100,499

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Full Data


Income, educational attainment, and 2022 labor force data was sourced from the US Census Bureau while historical immigrant labor force data was sourced from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It's important to note that median income statistics do not account for differences in hours worked and represent the median income for all workers.

Large cities were defined as cities with a population over 350,000; mid-size cities as populations from 150,000-350,000; and small cities as populations under 150,000.

About the Author
Kyle Fretwell of
Kyle Fretwell has worked as a researcher and data journalist for over a decade. His work has appeared in publications such as Bloomberg, Fox Business, MSN, USA Today, CNBC, and the Houston Chronicle.

He now manages's content team and is a regular fixture at the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville.

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