Economic Contributions: Immigrant Californians are building up the fifth largest economy in the world.

Each indicator page features a series of charts, insights and analysis, case studies, resources, and related indicators.

Insights and Analyses

  • While immigrants make significant contributions to the state’s economy, valuing California’s immigrants for more than their economic contributions is key in countering untrue narratives and acknowledging, as well as valuing, their humanity. In 2019, immigrants composed 27% of the state's total population and contributed $37.7 billion to California's state and local taxes, $77.7 billion to federal taxes, and had $291 billion in spending power.
  • The 2020 California 100 Report on Immigrant Integration showed that, in 2019, undocumented immigrants were nearly twice as likely as the U.S.-born population to experience working poverty.
  • According to the American Immigration Council, in 2018, California’s immigrant-led households contributed about $80.8 billion in federal taxes and $38.9 billion in state and local taxes. The total spending power of immigrants across California was $290.9 billion in 2018.
  • A study showed that extending the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) to undocumented taxpayers and their families would have resulted in $10 billion for the U.S. economy, generating the economic activity necessary for the creation of more than 82,000 jobs across the U.S. and 17,000 jobs in the state of California.
  • In the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government released several relief funds aimed at helping taxpayers weather through the economic crisis caused by the pandemic. The first package, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, excluded many undocumented immigrants and mixed-status families who are also taxpayers. The second relief package included certain individuals in mixed-status families and retroactively amended this exclusion in the CARES Act. Nevertheless, national estimates by the Migration Policy Institute reveal that still, 2.2 million U.S.-citizens or documented immigrant children of undocumented parents and 9.3 million undocumented immigrants were excluded from the first two stimulus payments. MPI estimates showed that, in California, an estimated 651,000 U.S.-citizen or legal-immigrant children with undocumented parents remained excluded as of January 2021.
  •  In 2021, California’s Golden State Stimulus included a provision to provide direct cash payments to support undocumented workers excluded from federal relief. 

Once migrant farmworkers, five Mexican families are now winery owners and leaders, setting trends in Napa Valley’s wine industry.

After migrating to the U.S., some as guest workers under the Bracero program, Mexican immigrants set their sights on one day owning wineries on the lands that they tended to and harvested. A feature in The Washington Post highlights the entrepreneurial spirit of these families during California’s wine revolution, sharing stories of how these families navigated the harsh working conditions of the agricultural industry and eventually became successful winery owners. These five families have set trends in the wine industry, advocated for improved farmworker labor conditions, and are preparing the next generation to support the family business. Bound together by three themes central to their experience, “heritage, opportunity, and family,” these families have been recognized by the Smithsonian for their work in strengthening and diversifying the wine industry. To learn more about these families and their unique stories read the full article here. Read a profile in Sonoma Magazine highlighting Latina winemakers and their successes and experiences navigating the wine industry here. Read another article in Boom California detailing the unspoken history of the labor of diverse immigrants and Native Americans that contributed to the cultivation of California’s wine industry here.

Photo credit: Marvin Joseph, Washington Post

Community-based land use planning can provide immigrant communities with better health conditions, while contributing to a stronger and sustainable local economy.

The California Environmental Justice Alliance (CEJA) “California Green Zones” initiative seeks to transform places burdened by pollution into healthy, thriving neighborhoods. Green Zones are a place-based strategy that “uses community-led solutions to transform areas overburdened by pollution.” CEJA’s work especially focuses on the affects that pollution has on low-income communities of color, which includes immigrant communities. A 2019 California Heath report shows that people of color in California suffer a higher burden of pollution, compared to U.S.-born residents. CEJA’s site hosts information about the different Green Zones throughout California and the different community organizations pushing the regional work. CEJA also works with local community organizations throughout the state to push for initiatives like their Environmental & Housing Justice Policy Platform. Through these types of initiatives and campaigns, CEJA and their community members are creating plans for pollution reduction, healthy jobs, affordable housing, clean energy and more to transform overburdened neighborhoods into vibrant and healthy communities. In the Southern San Joaquin Valley Green Zone, CEJA and its partner, the Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment (CRPE), work with local communities in Kern, Kings, and Tulare counties. This region houses agriculture and oil industries that expose workers and residents living nearby to an increased risk of negative health effects associated with pollution. According to California Communities Environmental Health Screening data, residents in this region have some of the highest levels of exposure to particulate matter and ozone pollution in the state. CRPE’s Forgotten Voices Campaign seeks to “reverse decades of pollution and lack of investment in these communities” by focusing on building the leadership of local residents to lead efforts to advocate for a community-led land-use planning; promote investments in local infrastructure projects; and work with local industries to identify pollution-reduction solutions and increase community investment. To learn more about Green Zones throughout the state and environmental justice for low-income and immigrant communities of color, read CEJA’s report here.

Photo credit: Brooke Anderson


Related Indicators