California has highest rate of immigrants in US

The 9.9 million immigrants in California account for 34 percent of the state`s labour force.

Updated: Jun 21, 2012, 15:27 PM IST

Los Angeles: More than a quarter of Californians are immigrants, marking the highest rate among US states, shows a report released here on Wednesday.

At 27 percent, the rate in the most populous US state is higher than that in New York, which ranks the second highest at 22 percent, according to the research.

The 9.9 million immigrants in California account for 34 percent of the state`s labour force and produce the same percentage of its annual GDP, or more than USD 600 billion, the report says.

"The report shows that immigrant workers are the backbone of key industries in California," said Reshma Shamasunder, the executive director of the California Immigrant Policy Centre, while releasing the report.

"They are innovators, entrepreneurs, active community members, community leaders," added Shamasunder, whose institute conducted the research along with the Centre for the Study of Immigrant Integration at University of Southern California (USC) and the California Community Foundation.

Around 61 percent of immigrants aged 16 and above participate in the labour force, compared to the 57 percent among non-immigrants, shows the report, which also finds that they figure prominently in the agriculture, manufacturing, and repair and personal service industries.

Meanwhile, immigrant households make up 27 percent of the total household income, and thus represent a substantial share of all spending power in the state, the report says.

"Their substantial contributions as workers and consumers help fuel the state``s economy and are spread throughout many California regions," said Dr Manuel Pastor, the director of the USC Centre for the Study of Immigrant Integration.

Immigrants also account for 38 percent of all residents with a PhD degree, and they are entrepreneurial, more likely to create their own jobs or be self-employed than the native born, it shows.

Nearly 1.1 million immigrants would be able to naturalise within the following five years, which would add to the political impact of the voting-eligible immigrant population, says the report.

In Los Angeles County, about 35 percent of residents are immigrants, and as they stay in the Los Angeles region longer and longer, the poverty rate decreases and homeownership rises, the report says.

According to the report, Latin America accounts for 60 percent of the immigrants in Los Angeles County, and Asia trails at 31 percent.