They were born outside the United States but are major economic drivers for New Jersey.

In response to a fiery national conversation on immigration policy, a new analysis from finance website WalletHub went state by state to see which spots economically benefit the most or least from immigration.


Using 18 indicators to score states on four key dimensions — immigrant workforce, socioeconomic contribution, brain gain and innovators, and international students — it was found that New Jersey benefits more from its foreign-born population than nearly every other state.

Only California received a higher score.

Just under 30 percent of New Jersey's workforce is made up of first-generation immigrants, the report said. Immigrant-owned businesses are responsible for about 6.5 percent of all New Jersey jobs. And almost half of the state's STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) workers are foreign-born.

The report also ranked New Jersey near the top when examining the median household income of immigrants.

According to Johanna Calle, program coordinator for the New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice, a number of the Garden State's successful immigrants remain undocumented. Many years ago, she said, it was easy for undocumented immigrants to obtain a social security number and even a business license.

"Some business owners could be foreign-born and undocumented, and we know that it exists," Calle said.

New Jersey has the third-largest foreign-born population in the country, she said, and the fifth-largest undocumented population.

New Jersey has more visas per capita than any other state, the WalletHub report said. WalletHub analyst Jill Gonzalez said the Garden State depends heavily on temporary work visas during the harvest months to make sure agricultural profits reach maximum potential.

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