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Civic Contributions: Taxes Paid by Immigrants in the Washington, DC, Metropolitan Area

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Document date: June 05, 2006
Released online: June 05, 2006

The nonpartisan Urban Institute publishes studies, reports, and books on timely topics worthy of public consideration. The views expressed are those of the authors and should not be attributed to the Urban Institute, its trustees, or its funders.

Note: This report is available in its entirety in the Portable Document Format (PDF).

The text below is a portion of the complete document.


Executive Summary

The Washington, DC, metropolitan area is home to over 1 million immigrants, who composed one-fifth of the area’s total population in 2004. The metropolitan area is relatively affluent and boasts a strong economy that attracts large numbers of immigrants for jobs at both the high- and low-skilled ends of the labor market. Immigrants in the Washington area come from more diverse countries of origin than is the case nationally, and a relatively high share come from origins with above average incomes. Whether higher or lower skilled, immigrants contribute strongly to the region’s economy, purchasing power, and tax base.

Immigrant households in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area had a total income of $29.5 billion in 1999–2000, and they paid $9.8 billion in taxes. This represents 19 percent of the region’s total household income and 18 percent of all taxes paid. Our estimate of the amount of taxes paid by immigrants is an underestimate, because it is based on 1999–2000 data, and the number of immigrants in the region has grown from 850,000 to at least 1.2 million since that time.

Although immigrant households on average have lower incomes than native-born Washington, D.C., area households, they pay nearly the same share of their incomes in taxes. Some groups of immigrants—the most educated and highest earners—actually pay more in taxes than natives, on average. On the other hand, less-educated immigrants and those without permanent legal status have considerably lower incomes and pay a lower share of their incomes in taxes than natives.

This report estimates the taxes paid by immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area in 1999–2000 and documents their demographics, household composition, income, and dispersal across jurisdictions in the region. The findings in this report are based mostly on analysis of 2000 U.S. Census data, because the census provides the most recent comprehensive data that allow disaggregation by country of origin groups and by many of the region’s local jurisdictions. The demographic data in the report are updated through 2004 using the U.S. Current Population Survey. We calculate taxes at both the individual level (e.g., income and payroll taxes) and the household level (e.g., property taxes), but aggregate them up to the household level. Throughout the report we refer to households headed by immigrants (whether citizens, legal immigrants, or unauthorized migrants) as “immigrant households” and compare their incomes and tax payments to households headed by native-born U.S. citizens. Following are highlights of key findings from the report.

Note: This report is available in its entirety in the Portable Document Format (PDF).



Topics/Tags: | Cities and Neighborhoods | Economy/Taxes | Immigrants | Washington D.C. Region


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