Report title: The Foreign-Born Population of Worcester, Massachusetts: Assessing the Challenges and Contributions of a Diverse Community

Authors: Michael Goodman, David R. Borges,Trevor Mattos, Michael P. McCarthy, Christina Cinito, Molly Fenton, Jason Wright, Jawanza Foster

Report date: September 28, 2015

Sponsor: Seven Hills Foundation

Issue areas: immigration, economic impact

Summary & key findings: The report profiles the foreign-born population in Worcester and highlights their unique challenges and contributions. The analysis also focuses on the impact the children of the foreign-born have on the public education system, and provides a detailed description of Worcester’s largest foreign-born subpopulations. Qualitative interviews with immigration service providers detail the challenges of supporting communities of refugees and other immigrants endeavoring to make a life for themselves and their families in Worcester.

Findings indicate that Worcester’s foreign born contribute to the economy in various ways, with significant impacts resulting from their role as producers (i.e. workers and business owners) and as consumers of local goods and services. Foreign-born business owners and consumers make disproportionately large contributions to the local economy. Naturalized immigrants as a group fare better than both natives and noncitizens, while noncitizens are more likely to be economically disadvantaged than natives or naturalized immigrants.

Demographically, the continual flow of immigrants into Worcester from different parts of the world lends a level of diversity in the foreign-born population that makes Worcester unique when compared with the state or other Gateway Cities. This continual flow helps maintain a working age population. Many of the foreign born, especially noncitizens, are of prime working age (25-44 years old) and actively participate in the workforce.

Worcester Public Schools offers a variety of English Language Learner (ELL) programs in order to address the unique challenges of the foreign-born population. This student population has increased dramatically in recent years. The vast majority ELL students in Worcester were born in the US and have varying levels of English proficiency.

Qualitative interviews and economic data revealed that many new immigrants face similar challenges, such as securing access to healthcare, finding affordable housing, and entering the workforce or education systems. However, a comparative analysis of Worcester’s major foreign-born subpopulations revealed that regional groups differ significantly with respect to various social and economic indicators.

Report link:  Access the report here.