Immigrants to central Ohio are contributing more to the region’s economic growth than their American-born neighbors and filling critical labor gaps during the COVID-19 pandemic, a recent study shows.
In 2019, Central Ohio’s 180,000-plus foreign-born residents contributed $ 15.4 billion to the region’s gross domestic product and $ 2.1 billion to its tax revenue report by research center New American Economy.
Although the group comprised only 8.7% of the total population, the report found that central Ohio’s GDP accounted for 11.5% of the region’s GDP and more than its share of the region’s purchasing power, tax contributions and business activities.
“In the Columbus area, the immigrant community is a really huge impact on the economic arena,” said Mo Kantner, director of state and local initiatives for New York’s New American Economy. “That means billions of dollars in taxes going into infrastructure, going to schools, going in ways that really build community.”
Immigrants a bright spot amid the labor shortage of the COVID pandemic
As the region suffered from a labor shortage during COVID-19, Kantner said, immigrants also increased and filled these roles. According to the report, foreign-born residents occupied more than 20% of all transportation and warehouse jobs in central Ohio, as well as a significant portion of those jobs in healthcare, nutrition, construction, and other essential services.
“Who do you think works in this warehouse packing your box?” Said Angie Plummer, Executive Director Community refugee and immigration services, a local refugee resettlement facility. “If the number of inquiries we receive looking for workers is a benchmark, then immigrants and refugees play an important role in all areas from logistics to healthcare.”
Without immigrants and refugees, according to Kantner, there would be 8,500 local manufacturing jobs that would have disappeared or moved elsewhere.
“It’s not like immigrants or refugees take a piece of the pie. It’s that they increase the size of the cake, ”she said.
Compared to the national average, immigrants in and around Columbus are particularly well educated. The report shows that 44% of immigrants aged 25 or older have a bachelor’s degree or above – nearly seven percentage points more than US-born residents.
This is due, among other things, to the number of colleges and universities in the greater area, explained Kantner. Approximately 1,000 international students in central Ohio graduate each year with degrees in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). In fact, more than 22% of all STEM workers in the region are immigrants.
Foreign-born workers still face employment problems
However, challenges remain for those with limited English language skills or who have not been able to transfer their educational qualifications from their home countries to the United States. According to the report, nearly 30% of immigrants with higher education work in low-paying jobs that do not require a bachelor’s degree.
It is particularly difficult for immigrants with family responsibilities to overcome such hurdles, said Plummer.
“You just have to get some kind of part-time job and have a roof over the family,” she said. “You can’t take a part-time job and then go to college to get your credentials back.”
To address such challenges, the Columbus City Council and Franklin County Board of Commissioners are developing a plan to improve the integration of immigrants in the area Growth gates, a program that provides nationwide research support to cities.
The year-long project, launched earlier this year, will focus on identifying gaps and recommendations in areas such as education and human resource development for immigrants.
“We will continue to strive to be the most hospitable city in Ohio,” said Councilor Emmanuel Remy. “The Gateways for Growth program is an important step towards closing economic, linguistic and cultural gaps.”
Yilun Cheng is a member of the Report for America Corps and handles immigration issues for The Dispatch. Your donation, which is equal to our RFA grant, will help her write stories like this one. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation at https://bit.ly/3fNsGaZ.