Unauthorized immigration has been a pivotal issue in this presidential election.
In fact, Donald Trump rocketed to the top of a crowded and promising Republican field by largely by channeling untapped anger over the changing complexion of the country and concerns over the number unauthorized immigrants in the country. And even if Hillary Clinton can stave off what the polls are showing to be a late-stage comeback by the Republican nominee, it will be an issue that continues to consume much of the Washington’s energy in the years to come.
Here’s the problem: If the debate over immigration is long on passion, it tends to be short on the understanding of facts. But on Thursday, the Pew Research Center released a report that looks at the industries and occupations with the highest shares of unauthorized immigrant workers, as well as which states have the highest share of unauthorized immigrants and workers.
According to the report there were 8 million unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. in 2014, making up 5% of the civilian labor force. The share of immigrants in the labor force is down slightly from the Great Recession though the overall number has remained unchanged. As you can see from the chart below, the number of undocumented immigrants has remained fairly steady since the beginning of the Great Recession, possibly reflecting the relative weakness of the U.S. labor market during that time. By that logic, however, we should expect to see a greater influx of the undocumented in the data for 2015 and 2016, now that the unemployment rate has continued to drop.
Pew also mapped out geographically where unauthorized immigrants make up larger shares of the workforce, and Nevada, California, and Texas top that list. Check out the map below to see the statistics for your state:
As you may have noticed, the areas of the country that have the most support for the anti-immigration candidacy of Donald Trump—like the deep South and the rust belt—are often the areas with the fewest undocumented immigrants and workers. This somewhat surprising fact is supported by other research like that by economist Jonathan Rothwell, who released a study in July which showed that Trump supporters are less likely to be unemployed and less likely to live near immigrants than non supporters. “Trump has emphasized the need to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border,” Rothwell writes. “But his support overall and even among likely Trump supporters is actually lower alongside the border and in neighboring areas with high immigrant populations than it is in the distant northern areas that would be least affected by a wall.”
Politics is complicated, and voters decisions don’t always, or even usually, line up with what their circumstances suggest. But at least those inclined to do so have the ability to better understand how the issues of the day with tools such as these.