The foreign-born population in Akron, Ohio — everyone from refugees to international students — is an economic powerhouse, a new study says.
That group held nearly $137 million in spending power in 2013 and helped boost the total housing value in Summit County by $207 million between 2000 and 2013, according to the report Welcome to Akron: How Immigrants and Refugees Are Contributing to Akron’s Economic Growth.
Foreign-born residents — now estimated at more than 9,100 people — also helped prevent the city’s population from plummeting faster than it has and infused life into Akron’s North Hill neighborhood.
“This report is going to prompt some really healthy conversations across the city,” said Kyle Kutuchief, Akron program director for the Knight Foundation.
The foundation funded the study, which was completed by the Partnership for a New American Economy.
It comes at the same time that immigration has become a topic in the presidential election, with debate swirling over the country’s refugee and immigration policies.
Other key conclusions from the Akron report include:
- The city’s population fell 1 percent to 198,247 people from 2007 to 2013. But the number of foreign-born people rose 30.8 percent over that time period to more than 9,000.
- 16.8 percent of foreign-born people own their houses without any debt, compared with 14.2 percent of U.S.-born residents.
- Foreign-born residents make up 11 percent of workers in manufacturing and 11.7 percent of all science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) jobs.
- 11.1 percent of foreign-born people are self-employed, while 6.2 percent of the U.S.-born population work for their own businesses.
- 27.4 percent of foreign-born people have a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared with 18.2 percent of U.S.-born residents.
The report’s findings mirror similar studies completed two years ago that credited immigrants with helping boost the local population, manufacturing jobs and housing values. Akron leaders hope the data help change some negative attitudes about immigrants in the community.
“We wish that everyone was driven by the humanitarian need of the refugees and the immigrants, but that’s not enough for some people,” said Elizabeth Walters, community outreach coordinator at the International Institute of Akron, which works to resettle refugees in the community. “This data really shows the huge impact that these folks have.”