Investing in foreign-born residents is not only good for the Pittsburgh-region's diversity, but also for its economy.
A report by the Partnership for a New American Economy found that foreign-born southwestern Pennsylvania residents contributed $217 million dollars in state and local taxes in 2014 and $6.8 billion to the county’s gross domestic product.
According to 2014 census data, foreign-born residents accounted for 5.2 percent of Allegheny County's population.
Allegheny County officials and members of Mayor Bill Peduto's Welcoming Pittsburgh initiative, aimed at improving the lives of immigrants, discussed the findings during an event Tuesday.
Betty Cruz, Pittsburgh’s deputy chief of special initiatives, said Pittsburgh tends to draw high-skilled immigrants. She said Peduto’s administration has acknowledged a citywide lack of diversity. Investing in foreign-born residents pays off, she said.
“It’s when you have that diverse range of representation from a community that really is investing and taking ownership and they’re celebrating the American way, but they’re also celebrating their culture,” she said.
The report found foreign-born Allegheny County residents are more likely to start a new business than U.S.-born residents, which is in line with national findings. In 2014, one in 10 foreign-born county residents was self-employed, also in line with national Pew Research data.
Allegheny County immigrants held $1.8 billion in local spending power in 2014, according to the report, and students on temporary resident visas contributed $338 million.
“We have tangible numbers that are showing it’s not just the welcoming heart of a city," Peduto said. "It’s the economic growth of a region that is the biggest beneficiary."
Cruz said there’s still much work to be done at an institutional level to reduce the opportunity gap for immigrants, but the report is a tool the administration can use to get there.