Today we start looking to see if we can answer the question of whether immigrants, both legal and undocumented, are taking jobs away from US citizens or keeping wages low. It is important to note that any attempt to correlate one, or two, data points to the immigration population will not prove one point over another. Each of the data points that I am starting to share with you today, cannot stand on their own as there are many factors driving them. That is why I will be sharing many different data points to determine if we can see a correlation between them and the immigrant population.

GDP per State

The GDP of each state is the measure of the state’s productivity. For a state to have a robust economy it must produce goods or services that it then sells to others. The higher the state’s productivity, or GDP, the more it produces.


In 2013, the top five states, ranked by highest GDP were: California (1), Texas (2), New York (3), Florida (4) and Illinois (5).

The five least performing states, in terms of state GDP were: Vermont (51), Wyoming (50), Montana (49), South Dakota (48) and North Dakota (47).

State GDP per Capita

A state’s GDP is only one measure to analyze in terms of jobs. A state may have a high GDP, but that does not mean that an individual’s wages correspond to the high output. Therefore, we also need to look at a worker’s income relative to the GDP.


The top five incomes per GDP states in 2013 were: The District of Columbia [DC] (1), Alaska (2), North Dakota (3), New York (4) and Connecticut (5).

The lowest states with per capita income from GDP were: Mississippi (51), Idaho (50), South Carolina (49), West Virginia (48) and Arkansas (47).

Median Household Income

It is also not enough to look at just the income rankings per GDP because we also need to look at how families are doing in the state. For this we need to look at the median household income per state.


In 2015, the top five states with the highest household incomes were: New Hampshire (1), Alaska (2), Maryland (3), Connecticut (4) and the District of Columbia [DC] (5).

For 2015, the states with the lowest household incomes were: Mississippi (51), Kentucky (50), Arkansas (49), West Virginia (48) and Alabama (47).

In terms of productivity, three of the top five states with the largest immigration populations; California, Florida and New York also have the highest productivity in the nation. Illinois and Texas were the exemption, although both states were high in immigration populations. Two of the states with the lowest GDP, Montana and South Dakota corresponds with two of the top five states with the lowest immigrant population among them.

However, when we look at per capita income based on GDP we find that only one state, New York, also has the highest immigrant population in it. Though Mississippi and South Dakota, two of the five states with the lowest immigrant populations in them also have the lowest per capita income in terms of GDP.

In the case of median household income, one of the highest earning states correspond to the top five most populous immigrant states. Although, Mississippi and West Virginia, with the lowest household incomes, also are two of the states with the lowest immigrant populations in them.

Tomorrow I will add more metrics to the question of whether immigrants are a benefit or a detriment to the US by looking at the unemployment rates in each state and the poverty levels.

Martin Paredes

Martín Paredes is a Mexican immigrant who built his business on the U.S.-Mexican border. As an immigrant, Martín brings the perspective of someone who sees México as a native through the experience...

2 replies on “The Immigrant Question – Jobs”

  1. A lot of the illegal alien effect in wages is felt at the industry level rather than at the state level. Case in point, my husband’s cousins in Chicago were construction workers. They feel wages have been severely impacted by illegal alien workers willing to accept lower wages. My brothers who picked fruit in Florida as teenagers for summer jobs, point out that those jobs have disappeared for kids. It would also be interesting to see the impact on the hospitality industry.

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