Quickly access information about Minnesota's diverse and burgeoning immigrant population

Minnesota’s foreign-born population has grown dramatically over the past several decades, outpacing the rate of the nation as a whole. In 1980, about three percent of our residents were foreign born, compared with more than seven percent in 2011. About 385,000 residents are foreign born, including many refugees or asylees who fled their home countries. An additional 173,000 children living in Minnesota are U.S. born but have one or more foreign-born parents (2009-2011). Immigrants and their children represent an important component of the state’s current and future workforce, and are vital contributors to our state’s educational, cultural, and civic life.

What's happening

  • By country of origin, the 15 largest groups of foreign-born residents in Minnesota are (in descending order): Mexico, Laos (including Hmong), India, Somalia, Vietnam, Thailand (including Hmong), Korea, China, Liberia, Ethiopia, Canada, El Salvador, Kenya, the Philippines, and Germany.
  • While immigrants are transforming many smaller communities across the state, 80 percent of the state's foreign-born live in the Twin Cities 7-county region.
  • In general, immigrant workers are concentrated at the high skill and low skill ends of the workforce spectrum. As of 2012, roughly 35 percent of foreign-born residents hold a 4-year college degree or higher (that share is 33 percent for the native-born population). Twenty-six percent of Minnesota's foreign-born adults lack a high school degree or GED, compared to six percent of the state’s native-born adults. Many of these adults work in meat packing, poultry processing, and other large-scale agricultural operations.
  • Among those age 0-19 in Minnesota, 1 in 6 is a child of an immigrant (either foreign-born or native-born with at least one foreign-born parent). Among our state’s youngest children (0-4), the proportion is nearly 1 in every 5 is a child of an immigrant.

Making connections

Immigrants and their children will make up an increasing share of our state’s workforce in the coming decades, helping to fill worker shortages as baby boomers retire. Because they are generally younger than the state's native-born population, foreign-born residents reduce the "Old-age dependency ratio" – the proportion of older adults relative to typical working age adults in our state.

Educating immigrant children is a major challenge for our schools and communities, as we prepare them to participate fully in the workforce and the broader community. Data on educational outcomes for children with Limited English Proficiency are available throughout the Education section, under the “By Special Population” breakdown.

Featured trend

immigrants from India
immigration icon

Over the past decade, the number of immigrants from India living in Minnesota has more than doubled. The number of kids born here with at least one immigrant parent has quadrupled. Most immigrants from India speak English well, and they are among our most highly educated residents.

View topic: immigration


Craig Helmstetter

Compass project manager Craig Helmstetter points out 5 things Minnesotans should know about our unique and growing immigrant population.

Minnesota Compass

Minnesota Compass
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