The Ohio Legal Assistance Foundation, in partnership with a group of philanthropy organizations, has released a new report, Our Pathway to a Brighter Future: Ohio’s New Americans, revealing that immigrants play a crucial role in Ohio’s economy and that further investments in services for immigrants would expand positive outcomes.
“Immigrants and their children represent the majority of projected labor-force growth in the United States over the next four decades,” said Richey Piiparinen, director of The Center for Population Dynamics at Cleveland State University and the report’s author. “By making investments in supportive services here in Ohio, particularly for our newest immigrants, we can expedite their ability to positively contribute to Ohio’s economy.”
While many of Ohio’s immigrants have achieved conventional markers of success, including rates of educational attainment 15.4 percentage points higher than native-born Ohioans (42.1 percent of Ohio’s immigrants hold a four-year degree or higher compared to 26.7 percent of native-born Ohioans), immigrants have higher poverty rates than the native-born population (18.7 percent to 14.4 percent). This reality is a function of the time it takes to acclimate to a new country and its customs, and can be lessened with improved access to three types of services:
- adult English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) services and Spanish GED services throughout the state;
- legal services that are affordable and available regardless of legal status;
- a full-range of healthcare services that are available regardless of legal status and that address physical, mental, and oral health.
Supporting immigrants creates benefits for native-born Ohioans. Immigrants are more likely to fill physically demanding and emotionally draining jobs in high-demand fields such as home health care, catapulting native-born Ohioans into more skilled labor. As Ohio’s population ages, immigrants will play an important role in filling jobs for the estimated 1.1 million personal and home health care providers needed in the United States by 2026.
Additional findings in the report include:
- Ohio’s immigrants have higher rates of family formation than native-born Ohio households, with 62.2 percent of immigrant households comprised of married couples with children compared to 56.4 percent of native-born.
- While Ohio’s population growth is almost stagnant, growing at only 0.15 percent since 1998, immigrants help to stabilize Ohio’s population and are a source of growth.
- Still, only 4.4 percent of Ohio’s population is composed of immigrants compared to 13.6 percent of the U.S. population. This is the largest divide between Ohio and the nation in modern history, and ranks Ohio in the bottom five nationally.
“Ohio’s immigrants drive cultural, economic, and social dynamism,” Piiparinen said. “By improving language, legal, and healthcare services, we can help immigrants contribute to Ohio’s economy and our communities more quickly. We must begin to imagine immigrant support services as a launchpad, not a safety net.”
About the report
Our Pathway to a Brighter Future: Ohio’s New Americans is the result of a collaboration of funders coordinated through Philanthropy Ohio. It was funded through the generous support of The George Gund Foundation, The HealthPath Foundation of Ohio, Needmor Fund, Ohio Legal Assistance Foundation, Open Society Foundations and SC Ministry Foundation.