There was a time when the word “immigrant” was associated only with men. Images and advertisements told a one-sided story.
Today, that story has changed. In 2021, immigrant women have taken center stage as workers, entrepreneurs, and American citizens.
In this brief article, we’ll discuss and celebrate the rise of immigrant women in America.
Here are eight facts about being a woman immigrant in the United States:
There Are Over 23 Million Women Immigrants
According to the American Immigration Council report in September 2020, more than 23 million immigrant women live in the United States.
While arriving from around the world, a few countries provide the largest sources of immigration.
In fact, nearly 40 percent of immigrant women come from Mexico, India, China, and the Philippines. Of those four countries, Mexico accounts for nearly 25 percent of all women immigrants in the U.S.
Immigrant Women Outnumber Immigrant Men
Until the 1960s, immigrant men vastly outnumbered immigrant women in the U.S. Thanks to the passage of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, however, the U.S. formally accepted a system of family-based immigration.
While the number of immigrant men and women began to even out in the 1970s, immigrant women officially surpassed the number of men by 2010. Today, immigrant women represent over 51.8 percent of the total foreign-born population.
This trajectory will likely continue. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, immigration will become the main driver of American population growth by 2030.
More Women Immigrate Through the Family-Based Plan Than Men
What exactly does the family-based immigration plan provide? In short, it empowers U.S. citizens to sponsor family members to obtain a green card. This convenient system allows people to lawfully enter and live in America.
In a 2018 study by the United States Census Bureau, over 392,000 immigrant women became U.S. residents through the family-based program, compared to only 303,000 men.
While more men than women obtain their residency through employment, that gap is narrowing every year.
There Are Nearly 12 Million Women Immigrant Workers
Women immigrants help drive the American economy. Representing over 11.9 million workers over the age of 16, immigrant women comprise 8 percent of the entire U.S. workforce.
While they play important roles in a variety of industries, the majority (36 percent) of immigrant women are employed in management, business, science, and arts-related roles. In fact, the Migration Policy Institute found that immigrant women are just as likely to be employed in those fields as American-born men.
Outside of business and management roles, over 31 percent of immigrant women work in the service and hospitality industries. That’s 12 percent higher than American-born women, the closest competing group.
As for the earning power of immigrant women? According to research from the American Community Survey, immigrant women earned more than $280 billion in 2017 alone.
Women Immigrants Are Powering Entrepreneurship
A recent study by the New American Economy found that over 45 percent of Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or their children.
This larger trend has largely been fueled by a growing number of immigrant women entrepreneurs. According to the Immigration Policy Center, the number of immigrant women business owners nearly doubled from 2000 to 2010. As of 2017, there were over 1.2 million female immigrant entrepreneurs in the United States.
Even more impressive, the growth rate of immigrant women entrepreneurs (nine percent) eclipsed the number of American-born women business owners (6.5 percent). In total, 40 percent of all immigrant business owners are women, and that number is quickly rising.
There Are Over 325,000 Hispanic Women Entrepreneurs
Hispanic women own nearly two million businesses in the United States. In 2016 alone, those businesses employed 550,400 workers and generated $97 billion in total revenue.
The Survey of Business Owners (SBO) found that of those two million business owners, 325,000 were foreign-born Hispanic women entrepreneurs.
While American-born women are highly motivated to start their own business, studies show foreign-born women are even more driven. The SBO report found that foreign-born Hispanic women are almost twice as likely to start their own business as native-born Hispanic women.
Immigrant Women Earn Less Than Other Groups
Unfortunately, not all of the trends and statistics are optimistic. While helping drive American entrepreneurship, immigrant women in the labor force shared an annual median income of $27,600 in 2018. That’s nearly $5,000 lower than the median income for native-born women, and over $10,000 less than the median income of foreign-born men.
While an obvious issue in the United States, The International Labour Organization (ILO) found that the pay gap between immigrants and native-born workers is an international problem. The ILO found that immigrants earn an average 13 percent less than natural-born citizens.
Immigrant Women Overwhelmingly Favor Citizenship
Despite the ever-present economic challenges in America, immigrant women continually prioritize becoming U.S. citizens. According to the Center for American Progress, 84 percent of women immigrants want to become naturalized citizens, while over 90 percent of women immigrants from South America have the same ambition.
Upon reflection, it’s increasingly clear how integral immigrant women are to the future of the United States. In looking at their accomplishments over the last fifty years, it’s truly exciting to consider what women immigrants might accomplish in the next 50 years.
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