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< Back to current issue of Immigration Daily

New Americans In The Treasure State

by Mary Giovagnoli et. al of the Immigration Policy Center

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

Immigrants and their children are significant shares of Montana’s population and electorate.

  • The foreign-born share of Montana’s population was 1.7% in 2007 (16,057 people), according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
  • 55.1% of immigrants (or 8,854 people) in Montana were naturalized U.S. citizens in 2007—meaning that they are eligible to vote.
  • 2.3% (or 11,779) of registered voters in Montana 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.

3.2% of Montanans are Latino or Asian.

  • The Latino share of Montana’s population grew from 1.5% in 1990, to 2.0% in 2000, to 2.7% (or 25,862 people) in 2007.  The Asian share of the population was 0.5% (or 4,789 people) in 2007, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
  • Latinos accounted for 1.7% (or 8,000) of Montana voters in the 2008 elections, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
  • In Montana, more than nine-in-ten (or 94%) 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 millions of dollars and thousands of jobs to Montana’s economy.

  • The 2008 purchasing power of Latinos in Montana totaled $501.2 million—an increase of 482.3% since 1990.  Asian buying power totaled $176.0 million—an increase of 339.0% since 1990, according to the Selig Center for Economic Growth at the University of Georgia.
  • Montana’s 511 Asian-owned businesses had sales and receipts of $99.9 million and employed 1,519 people in 2002, the last year for which data is available.  The state’s 964 Latino-owned businesses had sales and receipts of $99.1 million in 2002, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Survey of Business Owners.

Immigrants are important to Montana’s economy as workers.

  • Immigrants comprised 1.7% of the state’s workforce in 2007 (or 8,381 workers), according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
  • Unauthorized immigrants comprised less than 0.5% of the state’s workforce (or 10,000 workers) in 2008, according to a report by the Pew Hispanic Center.
  • If all unauthorized immigrants were removed from Montana, the state would lose $96.3 million in economic activity, $42.8 million in gross state product, and approximately 720 jobs, even accounting for adequate market adjustment time, according to a report by the Perryman Group.

Immigrants are important to Montana’s economy as students.

Naturalized Citizens Excel Educationally.

  • In Montana, 30.1% of foreign-born persons who were naturalized U.S. citizens in 2007 had a bachelor’s or higher degree, compared to 20.0% of noncitizens.
  • 26.2% of Montana’s foreign-born population age 25 and older had a bachelor’s or higher degree in 2007.
  • In Montana, 78.2% 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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