Immigrants—many of whom are women—make up a significant portion of the U.S. population.
In 2021, 23.2 million lived in the United States, outnumbering immigrant men, according to recent analysis of the 2021 American Community Survey. Immigrant women made up 14% of the country’s overall female population. While their work adds critical value to our economy and society, immigrant women in the labor force earn less than foreign-born men, and less than U.S.-born men or women.
Country of Origin & Naturalization
Immigrant women from Mexico make up the largest share (22.1%) of the female immigrant population. About 5.1 million women from Mexico lived in the United States in 2021, followed by women from India, the Philippines, and China.
More than half (54.8%) of immigrant women were naturalized U.S. citizens in 2021, though naturalization rates differ by country of origin. Women from Vietnam were the most likely to be naturalized citizens (77.0%), followed closely by the Philippines (74.0%), Cuba (70.0%) and Korea (68.9%).
Education and Labor Force Participation
Over a third of immigrant women (33.9%) have a bachelor’s degree or higher, in comparison to 36.6% of U.S.-born women. Indian-born women are highly educated, with 77.2% holding a bachelor’s degree or higher. Women from Korea, the Philippines, and China are all also more likely than U.S.-born women to have obtained this level of education.
The 12.7 million immigrant women in the U.S. labor force occupy roles across the occupational spectrum, accounting for 16% of all female workers in the country. Immigrant women from several countries participate in the labor force at higher rates than U.S.-born women, whose labor force participation rate is 58.7%. Immigrant women from the Philippines are the most likely to be in the labor force (62.4%), followed by women from countries including Colombia (62.1%), Dominican Republic (61.0%) and Vietnam (60.8%).
While immigrant women work in a variety of fields, more than one in five (23.3%) immigrant women work in the healthcare and social assistance industry, followed by female immigrants working in professional services (13.3.%) and hospitality (9.7%). Women from the Philippines play a vital role in healthcare and social assistance in the United States with 42% working in this industry. Over one in four women from India work in the professional services sector, which includes professions that provide legal, accounting, scientific research, and consulting services.
Despite the critical role they play, immigrant women on average make less than their U.S.-born counterparts. While households led by U.S.-born women have a median household income of $64,300, it is $59,900 for households led by immigrant women. Households led by immigrant women also earn less than their male-led counterparts. The median household income for households led by immigrant men is $79,000.
These datapoints demonstrate just some of the valuable contributions immigrant women make to U.S. society. However, income disparities among some groups showcase the work that needs to be done to allow people from all backgrounds to have access to opportunities for growth and economic prosperity.
Editor’s Note: Unless otherwise noted, all data comes from American Immigration Council analysis of the 2021 American Community Survey, downloaded from IPUMS USA, University of Minnesota, www.ipums.org.
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