Immigration is a hot topic issue in this country. It has been for decades, although it seems to be even more so than ever under the current administration. Rather than offer an opinion on what our state or national policy should be, I thought it would be helpful to look at some date the Census Bureau has collected on the issue.
Based on Census Bureau figures, in 2015 just over eight percent of Utah’s population was foreign-born. Of that eight percent, 37 percent of those foreign-born residents are U.S. Citizens. That means that just over five percent of Utah residents are non-citizens. The percent of those non-citizens that are here illegally is not clear from these data; however the Pew Research Center estimates that illegal immigrants made up 3.5 percent of Utah’s population in 2014.
Table 1 shows the Census Bureau’s estimates of foreign-born residents for the year 2015.
One of the main arguments for harsher immigration laws is that illegal immigrants take jobs that Americans would otherwise have. Using unemployment data provided by Utah’s Department of Workforce Services, I compared each county’s percent of non-citizen residents with the county’s unemployment rate to see if there was a noticeable correlation between the two figures.
(Before we get to those results, can I just comment on how great Utah’s economy seems to be humming right now? In 2010, Utah’s unemployment peaked at 7.7 percent—undoubtedly due in large part to the great recession. In 2015, unemployment in Utah was less than half that of the 2010 percentage at 3.5 percent.)
Table 2 includes both the percent of non-citizens in a county as well as each county’s unemployment rate. Both figures come from 2015.
What isn’t apparently clear in table 2, but is in table 3 is that there seems to be little correlation between a higher percentage of non-citizens in county to high unemployment. Table 3 ranks both of those figures and sorts them based on unemployment.
For the most part, the counties struggling with the highest unemployment rate have relatively low percentages of non-citizen residents. This suggests that whatever the reasons for unemployment in those counties, they are not tied to an overabundance of illegal immigrants commandeering jobs that U.S. citizens would otherwise fill. Conversely, the top ten counties for percentage of non-citizen residents fall into the lower half of the unemployment rate.
Obviously, there are flaws to this analysis. Without knowing how many of the non-citizens captured in the Census Bureau’s data are here legally verses illegally muddies any conclusions. With a ridiculously low unemployment rate statewide, Utah’s economy may be positioned to handle both a legal job force and illegal immigrants. Data during an economic downturn might suggest illegal immigrants would have a more severe impact to job hunters in a less robust job market. Still, given Utah’s economic state, it does appear that concerns over illegal immigrants stealing Utah jobs appear overblown.
If you have a subject you’d like UAC to explore in a future Counties by the Numbers article, please email Arie Van De Graaff at firstname.lastname@example.org