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Report Finds San Diego’s Immigrant Community Tied To Region’s Economic Prosperity

The San Diego skyline pictured in this undated photo.

Credit: Milan Kovacevic

Above: The San Diego skyline pictured in this undated photo.

San Diego County's foreign-born population boosts the region's economy, according to a new data analysis released Friday.

The report from the national nonprofit New American Economy found immigrants in the region represent more than a quarter of the region's total spending power and are more likely to launch businesses that native-born residents.

The assessment, presented at a local summit on immigrant integration, showed immigrants comprised 24 percent of the county's population, but represented nearly 28 percent of purchasing power in 2016 and made up just over 32 percent of the region's entrepreneurs.

San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce President Jerry Sanders, who delivered opening remarks at the Welcoming San Diego event, said supporting immigrant workers would drive more innovation and attract more investment in the San Diego economy.

"The chamber understands the importance of immigrants," said Sanders, a former Republican San Diego mayor.

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Welcoming San Diego Kick Off

Welcoming San Diego Kick Off

A report published at the Welcoming San Diego Kickoff Summit.

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Kate Brick, New American Economy Director of State and Local initiatives, said the report also revealed that immigrants are slightly overrepresented in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, jobs. Brick said this helps fill a national and state shortage.

"When we don’t have the workforce we need, we can’t grow as an economy," Brick said. "Here in San Diego, 30 percent of all STEM workers are foreign-born, so they play a really important role in driving innovation and driving growth in the local economy.”

A 2017 article from the U.S. Department of Commerce shows employment in STEM fields is improving, although some cast doubt on whether the country was truly experiencing a scarcity of STEM workers. However, a 2015 Bureau of Labor article reported that some areas of the public and private sectors were indeed lacking qualified STEM professionals but academic institutions were experiencing a surplus.

Separately, the New American Economy report showed the region's undocumented population paid more than $100 million in state and local taxes and $500 million in federal taxes. It also found that 36 percent of immigrants who are eligible to become naturalized citizens have not completed the process.

A new report breaks down the contributions of San Diego's immigrant community.

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