Paintings by Northeast High School students in the 'Immigrant Alphabet' art project hanging on MSB in 2017

Philadelphia’s foreign-born population earned nearly $27 billion in 2017, according to a new report. That’s up nearly $3 billion from 2016, and is part of a sustained increase in immigrants’ economic impact in the region.

More than one in 10 residents in the Philly metro area were born in another country, according to the latest data crunch from the New American Economy, a bi-partisan advocacy group that makes economic arguments in favor of immigration reform.

Non-natives paid about $7.4 billion in combined local, state and federal taxes in the Philly area, according to the think tank’s study, which is based off the latest U.S. Census data release. That’s up $850 million from NAE’s prior report.

The region has one of the oldest and most stable immigrant populations in the country, said Andrew Lim, director of quantitative research at New American Economy. But the increased earnings and tax share are a consistent trend he’s seen in immigrant populations nationwide.

“What we’re seeing across the board is that immigrants are more highly educated and because of that they are increasingly able to command higher earnings,” Lim said.

The workforce is concentrated in some of the region’s booming industries.

While at least 11% of the metro population, immigrants also make up nearly 20% of the region’s manufacturing workforce. They also hold about 17% of tourism and hospital jobs, and 16.5% of construction jobs.

How does the think tank define immigrant?

Anyone who identified as a foreign-born resident on the U.S. Census Bureau’s most recent American Community Survey, from which the New American economy bases their research. Lim said that could include naturalized U.S. citizens as well as permanent residents.

The census can not ask about citizenship status — but President Trump’s administration continues to search for legal grounds to include such a question on the federal government’s once-in-a-decade survey next year.

The NAE report also suggests that immigrants are filling a critical role in the region’s working-age population, which the census defines at ages 16 to 64.

More than 79 percent of immigrants in the Philly metro were of working age, compared to only 63 percent of non-immigrants.

Overall, the region ranked 230 out of 435 metro areas nationwide in terms of foreign-born immigrants per capita.

You can compare us to other metro areas across the country on New American Economy’s nationwide map.

Max Marin (he/him) was Billy Penn's investigative reporter from 2018 to 2021. A graduate of Temple University, he has produced award-winning journalism on local politics, criminal justice, immigration...