Report: Pennsylvania’s Foreign-Born Rural and Urban Immigrant Workforce Continues to Climb

PA Immigrant Workforce by County

A recent study by Pennsylvania State University and the Center for Rural Pennsylvania found that between 2000 and 2016, the foreign-born immigrant workforce throughout Pennsylvania rose significantly and now makes up a considerable portion of Pennsylvania’s rural and urban economy.

Economic Implications of Pennsylvania’s Foreign-Born Population

The study, “Economic Implications of Pennsylvania’s Foreign-Born Population,” found that in rural Pennsylvania, the foreign-born workforce grew by 75% over the study period. In Pennsylvania’s urban centers, foreign-born workers rose exponentially and now account for 10.7% of the workforce.

While the ability to report reliable information on the undocumented immigrant employee population is hindered by the given hesitation of both employers and employees to discuss the matter for fear of possible immigration enforcement actions. Nonetheless, the researches were effective in reaching out to the undocumented immigrant employee communities throughout Pennsylvania, through the assistance of local and statewide immigrant rights organizations.

The study found that Pennsylvania businesses employ over 170,000 undocumented immigrants. Distribution of Workforce by Nativity and Rural-Urban Residence

Taken together with documented foreign-born employees, Pennsylvania’s immigrant employees were mostly concentrated in Berks, Bucks, Carbon, Columbia, Center, Chester, Erie, Lebanon, Lehigh, Luzerne, Montgomery, Monroe, Northampton, Philadelphia, Pike, Susquehanna, and Wayne counties.

Pennsylvania’s immigrants are employed in nearly every type of job, from doctors, nurses, attorneys, pharmacists, management, financial planners, business owners, bankers, developers, agriculture growers and workers to day labors, in nearly every industry, including agriculture, construction, distribution, entertainment, finance, health care, information technology, manufacturing, and transportation. While Pennsylvania’s workforce has significant immigrant influence, the report found that 21% of rural immigrant families lived below the poverty line with nearly 11% earning less than one-half of the poverty threshold per year.


Of importance in this study is the fact that immigrants—both documented and undocumented—make up a significant portion of Pennsylvania’s urban and rural workforces—a portion that only continues to grow. Foreign-born employees pay federal, state, and local income taxes, spend in Pennsylvania’s small businesses, retailers, and, through many of their own businesses, employ thousands of Pennsylvanians. With this, the study concludes that the foreign-born population in Pennsylvania is critical to Pennsylvania’s continued economic development and cultural advancement.

Norris McLaughlin’s Immigration Law Practice Group is equipped to assist individual and business clients in all immigration matters. To learn more about this blog or if you have any immigration concerns, please feel free to contact me at or (484) 544-0022.

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