New research concludes continued immigration is essential to the Houston region’s economic future

Economic forecast shows the Houston region will need immigrants to continue expanding economically, with major long-term benefits from more immigration and significant economic losses from policies that restrict immigration.

March 7, 2019

Houston – The Center for Houston’s Future released its comprehensive report on the regional effect of immigration, Houston’s Economic Future: Immigration, concluding that economic growth is critically dependent on continued immigration.

The Center developed a unique economic forecasting tool to analyze how changes in immigration patterns would affect the Houston region’s economic growth. The study, possibly the first of its kind to forecast the local economic effects of immigration, looked to the year 2036—the 200th anniversary of Houston’s founding—for its scenarios.

Our research found:

  • Projecting GDP for 2036, a restricted immigration scenario (30 percent less immigration) causes a $51 billion economic loss and an increased immigration scenario (30 percent more immigration) produces a $67 billion economic gain from the status quo.

  • Immigrants already make up nearly one-third of the region’s workforce. With employment growth among native citizens below 2 percent, Houston will need foreign immigration to continue expanding economically.

  • Between 2016 and 2036, 57 percent of all jobs added within the region will be filled by foreign-born workers.

  • The construction and service industries are particularly dependent on immigrant labor today, while the health care and IT sectors will increasingly rely on immigrants.

  • The role of undocumented labor to the Houston metro area’s economy will decline over time with the number of undocumented workers in the region shrinking to 7 percent of the labor force during the forecast period.

“Our research provides clear and compelling evidence that immigration has been key to the Houston region’s economic growth and will determine our economic future,” said Brett Perlman, CHF’s president and CEO. “Employers, big and small, across industries, have a stake in ensuring the region continues to attract and retain immigrants and that policies at the local, state and federal level support more immigration, since immigrants are a key to the area’s economic future.”

The report provides a snapshot of the area’s immigrant population and discusses what the community can do to make the region more welcoming and inclusive to immigrants. Culinary superstar Hugo Ortega offers his personal story of how an undocumented immigrant became a world-renowned chef and restaurateur.

CHF also held industry roundtables with business and community leaders in hospitality, health care, construction and education. The report details findings from the sessions, including:

  • Demand for workers in Houston has outstripped supply, and immigration is key to meeting labor force needs.

  • The current climate of fear for many immigrants has many employers worried foreign-born workers will leave their jobs.

“Our work can become a springboard for a community-wide discussion on how we can create a region where immigration is broadly viewed by employers, policymakers and community leaders as an economic asset and as key to our future global economic competitiveness,” Perlman said.

About the Center for Houston’s Future: CHF brings business, government and community stakeholders together to engage in fact-based strategic planning and collaboration on issues of great importance to the region. It engages in economic research and strategic planning, holds community events and develops leaders. The Center is an independent affiliate of the Greater Houston Partnership. Its leadership program has graduated more than 1,000 business and civic leaders.

This work was made possible by a grant from JPMorgan & Chase Co., with the Center solely responsible for the report’s content.


Media contact:

Laura Goldberg,

713-844-9327 (o), 832-527-4255 (c)

Find the report at


Steven Scarborough