Massachusetts was ranked as the fourth state in the nation for the economic contributions of its immigrant population.
WalletHub, a personal finance website, conducted the study by analyzing government data. WalletHub was able to examine the economic impact of immigrants in terms of four major aspects: immigrant workforce, socioeconomic contribution, brain gain and innovators, and international students.
Massachusetts ranked first in the country for the economic contributions of its international students. Jill Gonzalez, a WalletHub analyst, wrote in an email that the strong higher education infrastructure in Massachusetts contributed to this outcome.
“Massachusetts’ international students account for almost 11 percent of all university students, which is the highest among the states,” Gonzalez wrote. “Clearly, its higher education system is a huge draw.”
Charles Willis, 38, of East Boston, said he agreed the quality of education in Massachusetts attracts migrants.
“I think a lot of families are coming here for a better education for their children and they see the universities that Massachusetts has to offer as one of its strongest selling points,” Willis said. “By extension of that, I think Massachusetts is known for its public schools and the strong education students get. I think education really draws people to Massachusetts.”
Immigrant workers also heavily contribute to high technology industries in Massachusetts, likely playing a major role in economic success in the state, Gonzalez wrote.
“Foreign-born STEM workers represent almost a third of total STEM workers, making Massachusetts 4th in this metric,” Gonzalez wrote. “Considering that [Boston is] on Amazon’s shortlist for its upcoming HQ2, I’d say the bid is heavily reliant on its immigrant workers.”
Lauren Ward, 33, of Kenmore, said the findings of the report reflect Boston’s rich and diverse history.
“Massachusetts has its own complex history with education and race and immigrants,” Ward said. “Boston and New York come to mind when you want to come to the states and want to be in a diverse area.”
This study was released on Tuesday, the day of President Donald Trump’s first State of the Union address. As Trump told the nation he intended on eliminating illegal immigration and even cutting down on legal immigration, WalletHub felt it was right to highlight what exactly immigrants can do for their new communities, Gonzalez wrote.
“Since immigration reform is still one of the biggest policy issues in our country, as amplified on Tuesday night, this study depicts just how reliant each state on the outcome,” Gonzalez wrote.
Despite the statistical evidence demonstrating the contributions of immigrants, John Harris, an organizer with the Boston May Day Coalition, an organization that fights for the rights of immigrant workers, said perceptions about the immigrant population will likely not change.
“I think there’s always going to be right-wing propaganda to try to blame migrants in this country for the problems that are perpetrated by the government and the banks and the corporations,” Harris said.
Harris said Massachusetts must become a sanctuary state to preserve the valuable contributions immigrants make by passing the Safe Communities Act. The act, currently being considered in the Massachusetts Senate, would limit state cooperation with the federal government in its immigration policy enforcement efforts.
“Migrants do a lot of jobs that would otherwise go undone,” Harris said. “They need to make Massachusetts a sanctuary state … the legislature has still failed to pass the Safe Communities Act.”
Sabrina Shrock, 45, of Dorchester, said she values the unique contributions immigrants make to the community.
“Immigrants bring a huge amount into our community — culture, food — they bring all their talents,” Shrock said. “They bring who they are, which is awesome.”
New York, California and New Jersey ranked above Massachusetts in the report for how they benefited from immigrant contributions.