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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

Annual Report Says Hampton Roads Benefitting from Influx of Immigrants

The statistics are a stark indictment of Hampton Roads as an economic magnet.

According to the 2018 State of the Region report, produced by Old Dominion University's Dragas Center for Economic Analysis and Policy, almost 52,000 people left Hampton Roads for other U.S. locations from 2010 to 2017.

But one factor has contributed to this region gaining modestly in population in the past seven years — a healthy influx of foreign immigrants.

In 2017, there were about 44 million immigrants in the United States - 14 percent of the population. Without immigration, overall population growth in this country would be nearly flat.

The change in Virginia is stunning in a historical perspective. Fifty years ago, one in 100 Virginians was foreign born. By 2016, the ratio was one out of 11, according to the 2012-2016 American Community Survey by the U.S. Census Bureau. In Hampton Roads, Virginia Beach had the highest share of foreign-born residents (9.1 percent), while Portsmouth had the lowest (2.7 percent).

The 2018 chapter on international immigration, one of a handful of State of the Region sections that drills down into topics of interest, highlights the contribution immigration has made to the national and Hampton Roads economy.

Spotlighting individual difference-makers, as well as the impact select communities have had on the region, reinforces the findings of a 2016 report by The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. It said: "The majority (if not overwhelming) amount of empirical evidence points to the conclusion that immigration leads to increased innovation, a better-educated workforce, greater occupational specialization and higher economic productivity."

In 2016, the Philippines, Mexico, China, United Kingdom and Vietnam were the top countries of origin for the foreign-born population in Hampton Roads. New residents arriving from the Philippines more than doubled arrivals from any other country.

"International migration has not been the panacea for all our ills, but it has alleviated some of the worst of our economic malaise," the report noted.

The long-term health of the economy, however, rests on the region redoubling its efforts to make Hampton Roads a dynamic, affordable, accessible place to live — no matter where you come from.

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