Facts and Statistics of Immigrants in Santa Barbara

According to the recent 2008-10 American Community Survey, 23% of Santa Barbara County residents are immigrants. This means there is more than 94, 000 immigrants residing in the community. That in itself is a significant number which is bound to impact affect the community. The study shows the effects of their presence is already being felt. And when you look at the research and the numbers, the effects are actually quite positive.

As the immigrant population settles into life in the county, the poverty rate decreases while the homeownership rate increases. If we consider immigrants who arrived before 1980 the poverty rate drops to 7% compared to 24% for those who arrived after 1990. Similarly the homeownership rate for pre-1980 immigrant households (66%) is much higher than the rate for post-1990 immigrant households (20%). This is an indication that with more immigrants settling down and purchasing homes, to stay and settle in the county, the more poverty will decrease through time.

Immigrants and their children comprise 35% of the population in the County. Of all children in the region, 48% have at least one immigrant parent. That is a significant contribution to the next generation and it’s impact will surely be felt for years to come.

Immigrants make up nearly one-third of the labor force in Santa Barbara County or 29%. You’ll find many of them working prominently in the agriculture, wholesale trade and repair and personal services sectors.

Immigrants also make up the majority of those employed in farming, fishing,forestry

(88%) and also in grounds cleaning and maintenance jobs (59%). They also comprise almost half of those employed in production (47%) and transportation jobs (45%). Within these sectors immigrants tend to gravitate primarily towards specific positions: namely, animal breeders, housekeeping and maintenance workers, assemblers and fabricators, packers and drivers of vehicles. Clearly the data shows that imigrants are very industrious, hardworking, and ready to contribute their share in the growth of the county’s economy.

This is again reinforced by the data that Immigrants are more acitve in the labor force than non-immigrants, with 63% of immigrants and 56% of non-immigrants over age 16 employed in Santa Barbara County.  However, for Latino and Asian immigrant men, the difference is greater. About 83% of all Latino and Asian immigrant men of working age (25-64) are employed, compared with 75% of U.S. born Latino and Asian men. The data clearly indicates that Latino and Asian immigrant men are more likely to work harder and to find employment, than Latino and Asian men who have already settled down in the county. It’s only natural as being in a new place so soon, they would readily try to settle down and make a go of starting a new life.

Yet this data is only scratching the surface. As much as the Immigrant workers contribute to the workforce they still represent a source of untapped labor market potential.  Among those over age 25 who are employed in Santa Barbara County, immigrants are more likely to be over-skilled (23%) than native born workers (15%) – that is, holding a Bachelor’s degree or higher and working in an unskilled job.

Immigrants account for 27% of all residents with a Ph.D degree. So as much as they are contributing to the workforce, immigrants could actually be doing more and earning even more. The potential is there.

But immigrants are not just skilled workers. In Santa Barbara County, immigrants are entrepreneurial and just as likely to create their own jobs (or be self-employed) as native born workers. In the working age population (ages 25 to 64) Asian immigrants have been shown to have more of an inclination to be self-employed (12%) than non-immigrant Asians (11%), while Latino immigrants are slightly less likely to be self-employed (9%) than non-immigrant Latinos (10%)

Furthermore, Immigrants are keeping the money flowing and moving, keeping the economy healthy. Immigrant households comprise 20% of the total household income in Santa Barbara County,  thus creating a substantial share of all spending power in the county.

The data shows that Immigrants are an essential part of the Santa Barbara County economy contributing around 25% of the region’s GDP. Without them that would be a huge chunk off of the economy.

As of 2010, the number of Immigrants eligible for naturalization stood at around 25,000  in Santa Barbara  and almost 8,000 of them would be able to naturalize within the next 5 years.This would make up a substantial share of the current voting-eligible population (13%). This would add to the current base of the voting-eligible population who are naturalized immigrants (12%). With their numbers rising, their voice would surely be more vocal in coming elections increasing their influence more and more as time passes.

Further adding to the growing diversity Immigrants bring, 18% of the voting-age population is a non-citizen in Santa Barbara County. Most of Santa Barbara’s Immigrants are from Latin America at 72%, Asia at 14%, and Europe at 10%.

It was also found that 39% of Santa Barbara County’s residents speak a language other than English at home. In the region immigrants speak more than 58 languages.

Clearly, the growing number of  Immigrants can only bring Santa Barbara, more diversity and productivity in the coming years, and that’s good news for everyone.