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A Look at Ohio’s Foreign-Born Population

The number of immigrants living in the United States has been growing at a faster pace in recent decades. The diversity of countries from which these new residents have emigrated has been increasing as well. I take a closer look at the foreign-born residents of Ohio, to learn where they are from and how they perform in the labor market based on their earnings profile, educational attainment, and career choices.

The proportion of foreign-born residents in Ohio is lower than in the United States as a whole. From 2006 to 2010, for example, foreign-born residents accounted for about 3.8 percent of Ohio’s total population and 12.7 percent of the total U.S. population, according to the Census Bureau. In Ohio, Asians represent 37 percent of the total foreign-born population. Dividing Asia into East Asia (China, Japan, Korea, etc.), the Middle East (Iraq, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, etc.), Southeast Asia (Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, etc.), and Southwest Asia (India, Pakistan, etc.), I find that Southwest Asia contributes the most of the Asian countries, with 13.3 percent of total immigrants. The second-largest region supplying foreign-born residents to Ohio is Europe, at 27.9 percent, and the third is Latin America, at 21.3 percent.

Percentages of Ohio Foreign-born Population, 2010

The median wage of all employed workers in Ohio in 2009 was $30,000. The difference between those in the 75th percentile and those in the 25th percentile was $37,300, similar to the wage distribution for native-born employed workers. Meanwhile, the median income for all foreign-born employed workers was lower, $26,000, and the earnings gap between the 75th and 25th percentiles was smaller at $36,600.

Among all the regions from which Ohio’s foreign-born employed workers emigrated (hereafter “source regions”), Southwest Asia has the highest median earnings at $50,000, and Latin America has the lowest at $18,000. At the same time, workers from Southwest Asia have the largest earnings gap between the 75th percentile and the 25th percentile, $56,000, while those from Latin America have the smallest, $18,000. If we take a closer look at earnings differences by gender, we see that the smallest earnings gap between males and females exists for workers from Latin America, at $1,200, followed by East Asians, at $3,000. The largest gap exists for North Americans, at $30,300, followed by Southwest Asians, at $15,000.

Earnings Distribution by Source Region, 2009

The foreign-born residents of Ohio are, in general, more educated than the native-born. About 24.6 percent of Ohioans aged 25 and older have a college degree or higher. For foreign-born residents, the share is 39.5 percent, and for the native-born it is 23.8 percent. Southwest Asian immigrants have the highest share of their population with a college degree or higher, at 74.3 percent. On the other end of the spectrum, Latin American immigrants have the highest share of their population with a high school degree or lower, at 68.3 percent, followed by African immigrants at 38 percent. Of the foreign-born, Southwest Asian immigrants have the lowest share at 15.9 percent. Differences in the educational attainment rates of Southwest Asian and Latin American immigrants could partially explain the large median earnings disparities in these two groups.

Among Ohio residents who have a college or a more advanced degree, the share of the population attaining a bachelor’s degree and every advanced degree beyond (master’s, professional, or doctorate) is higher among the foreign-born population than the native-born. The percentage gap is much larger with the more advanced degrees (professional and doctorate). Asian immigrants have the highest share of the population at every degree level. Although Latin American immigrants have a lower share in most degree levels, the share of their population with professional degrees and doctorates is still higher than that of the native-born.

Share of Population at Each Degree Level, 2010

The educational attainment patterns of the foreign born in Ohio are not typical of the nation as a whole. In the United States, the percent of foreign born with a bachelor’s degree is slightly below that of native-born residents, though there is considerable variation across states. The Census Bureau reported that in 2009 Ohio had the second-largest gap between the bachelor’s degree attainment rate of foreign-born residents and the native-born population. The only state with a larger gap was West Virginia.

There are also some differences in the occupational distributions of native- and foreign-born workers. The top occupation for native-born workers is office and administrative support occupations, whereas production work is the top occupation for foreign-born workers. However, looking at the top five occupations for both groups of workers, there are both blue- and white-collar occupations, and there is significant overlap in the occupational categories. Finally, foreign-born and native-born residents have broadly similar industry employment shares among the top industries. In particular, education, health and social services, and manufacturing are the top two industries for both groups of workers.

Top Five Most Popular Occupations among Ohio’s Employed Workers (Age 16+), 2010 (percent)

  First Second Third Fourth Fifth
Ohio Office
14.0
Sales
10.5
Management
9.0
Production
8.1
Construction
7.2
Native-born Office
14.7
Sales
10.7
Management
9.0
Production
8.0
Construction
7.4
Foreign-born Production
10.6
Management
9.1
Food
8.1
Sales
7.2
Office
6.6
Africa Transportation
18.2
Office
12.4
Healthcare
9.3
Sales
7.4
Personal
6.7
East Asia Food
17.4
Education
15.7
Management
14.0
Life
8.0
Computer
7.1
Middle East Sales
22.6
Management
10.3
Architecture
8.5
Transportation
7.7
Education
7.1
Southeast Asia Production
16.7
Personal
16.6
Office
6.4
Construction
6.2
Financial
5.3
Southwest Asia Computer
21.1
Management
12.1
Education
10.2
Sales
7.7
Production
5.9
Europe Management
13.6
Production
12.1
Office
8.1
Sales
7.6
Construction
6.3
Latin America Production
17.4
Food
14.1
Buildings
12.6
Transportation
9.7
Construction
9.7
North America Management
16.6
Sales
14.4
Education
13.1
Computer
14.8
Office
4.5

Note: For details on the American Community Survey (ASC) occupation coding, see: http://usa.ipums.org/usa/volii/c2ssoccup.shtml
Due to the limited sample size, foreign-born population from Oceania is not included in the analysis of this article.
Source: IPUMS, ACS 2010 Sample.

Top Five Most Popular Industries among Ohio’s Employed Workers (Age 16+), 2010 (percent)

  First Second Third Fourth Fifth
Ohio Educational/Health
24.8
Manufacturing
15.0
Retail
12.0
Professional
8.9
Arts/Recreation
8.6
Native-born Educational/Health
24.8
Manufacturing
14.9
Retail
12.1
Professional
8.7
Arts/Recreation
8.5
Foreign-born Educational/Health
24.3
Manufacturing
16.2
Professional
13.0
Arts/Recreation
12.1
Retail
8.8
Africa Educational/health
33.7
Retail
12.3
Transportation
10.1
Manufacturing
8.7
Professional
8.7
East Asia Educational/Health
31.5
Arts/Recreation
27.3
Manufacturing
13.7
Professional
11.0
Retail
5.3
Middle East Educational/Health
27.1
Retail
20.6
Professional
17.8
Manufacturing
8.8
Arts/Recreation
8.4
Southeast Asia Educational/Health
23.1
Manufacturing
22.2
Other
17.2
Professional
8.0
Finance
6.8
Southwest Asia Educational/Health
33.9
Professional
19.7
Finance
11.5
Manufacturing
10.8
Retail
10.8
Europe Manufacturing
21.3
Educational/Health
21.2
Professional
11.5
Retail
9.2
Arts/Recreation
8.6
Latin America Manufacturing
19.3
Arts/Recreation
18.7
Professional
14.0
Educational/Health
11.8
Construction
8.2
North America Educational/Health
32.5
Professional
17.4
Manufacturing
12.3
Finance
8.4
Retail
6.4

Note: For details on the American Community Survey (ASC) industry coding, see: http://usa.ipums.org/usa/volii/08indus.shtml.
Due to the limited sample size, foreign-born population from Oceania is not included in the analysis of this article.
Source: IPUMS, ACS 2010 Sample.

In summary, Ohio absorbs a variety of immigrants from all regions of the world, primarily from Asia. Its foreign-born residents generally have higher educational attainment than the native-born, and they congregate in occupations and industries where high skill sets are more appreciated, which likely results in higher median earnings.

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