The majority of rural, foreign-born U.S. residents come from Latin America. And Latino immigrants are not only bringing population growth to rural America, they also bring economic growth. Economists have found that nationwide, rural counties with larger proportions of Latino populations tend to be better off economically than those with smaller Latino populations.
Rural counties with higher proportions of Latinos tend to have lower unemployment rates and higher average per capita incomes. A 2013 study by Dennis Coates and T.H. Gindling found that the income growth that tends to accompany Latino population growth in rural counties is even greater where native-born, non-Hispanic populations have otherwise been shrinking.
According to research from the University of Nebraska at Omaha, immigrants benefit their communities both through their spending at local businesses, and by paying sales, income, property, and gasoline taxes. In 2010, spending by immigrants in Iowa contributed about $2.8 billion in total production to the state’s economy, creating over 22,000 jobs. In Nebraska, immigrants’ spending generated over $2.15 billion and over 17,000 jobs.
This study also found that immigrants’ tax contributions to state governments were greater than what they took out in public benefits. Furthermore, removing immigrants from the labor force would cost Iowa $12 billion, 4.2 percent of total production, and 47,000 jobs. Nebraska would lose $18.5 billion, 10.7 percent of total production, and 82,000 jobs.
Established in 1973, the Center for Rural Affairs is a private, non-profit organization working to strengthen small businesses, family farms and ranches, and rural communities through action oriented programs addressing social, economic, and environmental issues.