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< Back to current issue of Immigration Daily

New Americans In The Gem State

by Mary Giovagnoli et. al of the Immigration Policy Center

The Political and Economic Power of Immigrants, Latinos, and Asians in Idaho

Immigrants and their children are growing shares of Idaho’s population and electorate.

  • The foreign-born share of Idaho’s population rose from 2.9% in 1990, to 5.0% in 2000, to 5.6% in 2007, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.  Idaho was home to 83,904 immigrants in 2007.
  • 34.8% of immigrants (or 29,215 people) in Idaho were naturalized U.S. citizens in 2007—meaning that they are eligible to vote.
  • 4.7% (or 31,021) of registered voters in Idaho were “New Americans”—naturalized citizens or the U.S.-born children of immigrants who were raised during the current era of immigration from Latin America and Asia which began in 1965—according to an analysis of 2006 Census Bureau data by Rob Paral & Associates.

Nearly 1 in 9 Idahoans are Latino or Asian.

  • The Latino share of Idaho’s population grew from 5.3% in 1990, to 7.9% in 2000, to 9.8% (or 146,941 people) in 2007.  The Asian share of the population grew from 0.8% in 1990, to 0.9% in 2000, to 1.1% (or 16,493 people) in 2007, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
  • Latinos accounted for 4.7% (or 30,000) of Idaho voters in the 2008 elections, and Asians 0.9% (6,000), according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
  • In Idaho, more than four-in-five (or 84%) children in immigrant families are U.S. citizens, according to the Center for Social and Demographic Analysis at the University of Albany.

Latino and Asian entrepreneurs and consumers add billions of dollars and thousands of jobs to Idaho’s economy.

  • The 2009 purchasing power of Latinos in Idaho totaled $2.5 billion—an increase of 527.4% since 1990. Asians buying power totaled $650.6 million—an increase of 477.4% since 1990, according to the Selig Center for Economic Growth at the University of Georgia.
  • Idaho’s 2,775 Latino-owned businesses had sales and receipts of $351.8 million and employed 3,149 people in 2002, the last year for which data is available.  The state’s 1,111 Asian-owned businesses had sales and receipts of $283.9 million and employed 2,837 people in 2002, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Survey of Business Owners.

Immigrants are integral to Idaho’s economy as workers and taxpayers.

  • Immigrants comprised 7.1% of the state’s workforce in 2007 (or 53,930 workers), according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
  • Unauthorized immigrants comprised roughly 3.1% of the state’s workforce (or 25,000 workers) in 2008, according to a report by the Pew Hispanic Center.
  • If all unauthorized immigrants were removed from Idaho, the state would lose $428.8 million in economic activity, $190.4 million in gross state product, and approximately 3,060 jobs, even accounting for adequate market adjustment time, according to a report by the Perryman Group.

Immigrants are integral to Idaho’s economy as students.

Naturalized Citizens Excel Educationally.

  • In Idaho, 22.0% of foreign-born persons who were naturalized U.S. citizens in 2007 had a bachelor’s or higher degree, compared to 12.1% of noncitizens.  At the same time, only 27.0% of naturalized citizens lacked a high-school diploma, compared to 50.3% of noncitizens.
  • The number of immigrants in Idaho with a college degree increased by 67.5% between 2000 and 2007, according to data from the Migration Policy Institute.
  • In Idaho, 77.6% of all children between the ages of 5 and 17 in families that spoke a language other than English at home also spoke English “very well” as of 2007.


About The Author

Mary Giovagnoli is the Director of the Immigration Policy Center. Prior to IPC, Mary served as Senior Director of Policy for the National Immigration Forum and practiced law as an attorney with the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security—serving first as a trial attorney and associate general counsel with the INS, and, following the creation of DHS, as an associate chief counsel for United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. Mary specialized in asylum and refugee law, focusing on the impact of general immigration laws on asylees. In 2005, Mary became the senior advisor to the Director of Congressional Relations at USCIS. She was also awarded a Congressional Fellowship from USCIS to serve for a year in Senator Edward M. Kennedy’s office where she worked on comprehensive immigration reform and refugee issues. Mary attended Drake University, graduating summa cum laude with a major in speech communication. She received a master’s degree in rhetoric and completed additional graduate coursework in rhetoric at the University of Wisconsin, before receiving a J.D. from the University of Wisconsin Law School. She spent more than ten years teaching public speaking, argumentation and debate, and parliamentary procedure while pursuing her education.


The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.


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