With more than 900,000 foreign-born residents living here in 2010, Virginia had the ninth largest immigrant population in the United States, reports the Commonwealth Institute in a new report, “Critical Assets: The State of Immigrants in Virginia’s Economy.” Forty percent of Virginia immigrants hold a bachelor’s degree or higher. They are more likely to participate in the workforce than native-born Americans. Their poverty rate is lower and their rate of business ownership is higher. Three quarters have the ability to speak “well” or “very well” in English.
It’s an interesting study, jam-packed with statistics. Of particular interest is the breakdown of foreign-born populations by political jurisdiction and the change in that population between 2000 and 2010. There you will find obscure factoids such as that rural Highland County had the lowest percentage of immigrants in the commonwealth in 2010, amounting to only 0.2% of the population, while Fairfax County had the highest percentage, with 28.8%.
My only complaint is that the Commonwealth Institute made no effort to distinguish between immigrants who are here legally and those who aren’t. Judged by education, income, employment, poverty and business-ownership metrics, I would wager that legal immigrants fare very well in Virginia and are major net contributors to society, while those that are here illegally tend to be less educated and less of an economic asset. Such a conclusion, if it proved to be accurate, would not meaningfully change the debate about undocumented immigrants but it might make Virginians more receptive to the idea of allowing more legal immigrants into the country.
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