How Immigrants are Building Midwestern Boom Towns

By Sara McElmurry, The Chicago Council on Global Affairs

After decades of economic decline—with the shedding of manufacturing jobs, the Midwest has grown at a rate of less than half the national average over the past 50 years—the region is now experiencing something of a business renaissance. Much of this revival can be linked back to immigration—and its continuity will depend on immigration reform.

More than 1 million immigrants moved to the Midwest between 2000 and 2010, revitalizing stagnating cities across the region.

But beyond their sheer numbers, immigrants are building local economies in other important ways. These new Midwesterners are young. The largest cohort is between the ages of 25 and 34, prime working age, replacing greying native-born workers who are retiring en masse from local labor forces.

With its foreign-born representing just seven percent of its population of 171,000, Sioux Falls (South Dakota) is not an immigrant gateway by any stretch of the imagination. But the small immigrant business community is making big economic contributions.

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