A study issued today questions some widespread beliefs about the immigrant population in northeast Indiana.
Not many immigrants live here? At 22,228, they make up nearly 5 percent of the region's population.
Most of the area's immigrants come from Mexico and Myanmar, formerly Burma? Actually, most of the region's immigrants come from other countries. Mexico is the home country for 28.9 percent of immigrants and Myanmar for 10.7 percent. Slightly more than 60 percent come from other countries, including India and China.
Most local immigrants are in the United States illegally? Not quite. Two-thirds are either naturalized citizens (41.5 percent) or eligible for naturalization (25.2 percent). Undocumented immigrants in most cases are not eligible to become citizens. The region has about 8,400 undocumented immigrants, the study found; about 1 in 3 immigrants are undocumented.
“There have been a lot of assumptions about immigrants made over the years, but this study really gives us the data to make data-driven decisions,” said Kate Virag, director of marketing and strategic communications for the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership.
The partnership, Associated Churches of Fort Wayne and Allen County and Welcoming Fort Wayne cosponsored the study, “New Americans in Fort Wayne and Northeast Indiana: A Snapshot of the Demographic and Economic Contributions of Immigrants in the Region.”
Using five years of data from Adams, Allen, DeKalb,Huntington, Noble, Steuben, Wells and Whitley counties, the study was done by New American Economy/Gateways for Growth.
The region was selected for a grant, allowing the work to be done at no cost, Virag said.
Among the study's other findings:
• Nearly one-quarter of the region's growth between 2011 and 2016 came from immigrants. In 2016, about 17 percent of immigrants – 4,823 – were refugees, and about half of refugees have become naturalized citizens.
• More U.S.-born residents, 30.1 percent, than immigrants, 22.3 percent, received Medicaid or Medicare health insurance in 2016. However, some of the U.S.-born may be children of immigrants, raising that percentage. About half of immigrants had private health insurance compared with 22.5 percent with public insurance. The rest are likely uninsured.
• The region's immigrants are more likely to hold advanced degrees than U.S.-born residents, and immigrants are nearly on par with U.S.-born residents in having a bachelor's degree or higher. About 9.3 percent of immigrants over age 25 have an advanced degree compared with 7.5 percent of U.S.-born residents. Comparable figures for 4-year college degrees are 19.6 percent of immigrants compared with 23 percent of the U.S.-born.
• Nearly 61 percent of the region's immigrants owned their own home, compared with 69.2 percent of U.S.-born residents. The region's immigrants in 2016 earned more than $634 million and paid more than $161 million in federal, state and local taxes. Immigrants make up more than their expected share of the working-age population.
“These three groups came together because there's not available data on the impact of immigrants and refugees in the region,” Virag said, adding the information is important as regional leaders try to increase the area's population through efforts such as the partnership's Road to One Million initiative.
“We are just so excited to have this data,” she said.