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Nebraska's Immigration Imperative

May 2, 2013 3 minute Read by Matthew Denhart

When one thinks about immigration, Nebraska is not the first state that usually comes to mind. After all, states like California, New York, Texas, and Florida have traditionally been home to the majority of America’s immigrants.

But, as I note in a recent article for the Nebraska-based publication, The Prairie Fire, immigrants are becoming increasingly important to the economies of other states as well. Below is an excerpt from the article:

Nebraska, like many other states, has historically had only a small immigrant population. But that is beginning to change somewhat. In the year 1990 Nebraska was home to just over 28,000 immigrants, a number equivalent to less than 2 percent of the state’s total population. However, over the next two decades, immigration increased rather dramatically. By 2011 Nebraska was home to some 116,000 immigrants, or 6.3 percent of the state’s population.

Although Nebraska is still less immigrant-intensive than the nation as a whole, immigrants are proving increasingly important to the state’s economy. In 2011 Nebraska’s civilian labor force counted just fewer than one million employed workers. Approximately 68,500, or 7.3 percent of them, were immigrants. While this may not seem like an overly large portion, it is more significant when one recalls that immigrants represent only 6.3 percent of Nebraska’s total population. Furthermore, it is important to keep in mind that, like the national economy, Nebraska’s immigrants provide relief to the state’s aging work force. In 2012 almost 83 percent of immigrants in Nebraska were between the working ages of 18 and 64, compared to only 60 percent of native-born Americans.

Nowhere is the importance of immigrants more apparent than in their contribution to the growth of the state’s labor force. Over the past decade (2000 to 2011), the number of employed Nebraskans increased by approximately 67,600 workers. Immigrants were responsible for almost 45 percent of the increase. That is a remarkable statistic. It demonstrates that while only around one in every 16 Nebraskans is an immigrant, almost one out of every two new workers over the past decade has been an immigrant. Clearly, attracting more immigrants is crucial to the long-term success of Nebraska’s state economy.

You can access the entire essay here.


Author

Matthew Denhart
Matthew Denhart

Matthew Denhart is an expert on immigration policy and is the author of the Bush Institute’s America's Advantage: A Handbook of Vital Immigration and Economic Growth Statistics, now in its third edition. He currently serves as executive director of the Calvin Coolidge Presidential Foundation and is a founder of the Coolidge Scholars Program which provides full-ride merit scholarships to America's most promising college students. A summa cum laude graduate of Ohio University, Denhart has written and spoken widely on a variety of policy topics including the economics of higher education, labor, and taxes. He has contributed articles to numerous national publications including The Wall Street Journal, Forbes.com, CNN Opinion, and Bloomberg View. 

Full Bio

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