Immigration Facts
Summary Demographic State Data (and Source)
Population (2012 CB est.) 1,595,728
Population (2000 CB est.) 1,293,953
Foreign-Born Population (2012 CB est.) 96,568
Foreign-Born Population (2000 CB est.) 64,080
Share Foreign-Born (2012) 6.1 %
Share Foreign-Born (2000) 4.1%
Naturalized U.S. Citizens (2012 CB est.): 37,220
Share Naturalized (2012) 38.5 %
Legal Immigrant Admission (DHS 2001 – 2012) 24,084
Refugee Admission (HHS 2000 – 2012) 11,506
Illegal Alien Population (2010 FAIR est.) 30,000
Costs of Illegal Aliens (2009 FAIR) $187,644,602
Projected 2050 Population (2006 FAIR) 2,509,000

State Population

According to the Census Bureau, the population of Idaho in 2012 was 1,595,728 residents.

Between 2000 (population 1,293,953) and 2012, the state's average annual population change was 24,635 residents. That was an annual average change of 1.7 percent. The comparable national annual rate of change was 0.9 percent.

Between 1990 (population 1,006,749) and 2000, the state's annual average population change was 28,720 residents. The annual average rate of change was 2.5 percent compared to the national rate of change of 1.2 percent.

Foreign-Born Population

According to the Census Bureau the foreign-born population of Idaho was about 96,568 persons in 2012. This estimate meant a foreign-born population share of 6.1 percent. The chart above shows the long-term change in the state's foreign-born population based on Census Bureau data.

Foreign-Born Change

Between 2000 and 2012 the Census Bureau estimate indicates an average annual rate of change in the foreign-born population of about 2,562 people, compared to the state's annual average population change of about 24,635  people. That is a 10.8  percent share of the state's population change (not including the children born in the United States to illegal aliens). The foreign-born population grew by 50.7 percent between 2000 and 2012.

Immigration also contributes to population growth through the U.S.-born children of immigrants. Nationally the share of births to the foreign-born is about double their share of the population. A 12.2 percent share of the state's current births is large enough to account for about 2,785 births a year. Combining the average increase in the foreign-born population and estimated immigrant births suggests that immigration may account for about 5,440 persons added to the state's population annually, i.e., nearly 22.1 percent of the state's overall population increase.

As of 2012 about 38.3 percent of Idaho's foreign-born population had arrived in the state since 2000. This compares with the national average 40.9 percent. In 2000, 47.7 percent of the state's foreign-born population that had arrived since the previous Census.

Foreign-Born Characteristics

An indicator of the change in Idaho's immigrant population may be seen in data on the share of the population over five years of age that speaks a language other than English at home. Between 2000 and 2012, the share of non-English speakers changed from 9.3 percent to 10.4 percent. In 2000, 41.6 percent of those persons in also said they spoke English less than very well. In the 2012 estimate, the share was 37.5 percent that spoke English less than very well. In 2012 Spanish speakers were 73.4 percent of those who spoke other than English at home, and 79.6 percent of those who spoke English less than very well.

The chart above shows the regional composition of the state's foreign-born population and how it has changed from between 2000 and 2012.


Census Bureau data in 2012 indicate that 37,220 residents of Idaho, or 38.5 percent of the foreign-born population in Idaho, were naturalized U.S. citizens, compared to 21,203 residents, or 33.1 percent, in 2000.

Nationally, 40.3 percent of the foreign-born population was naturalized in 2000, and 45.8 percent in 2012.

Net International Migration (NIM)

Data from the Current Population Survey (CPS), the Census Bureau estimated that between 2000 and 2012, the change in Idaho's population resulting from net international migration has been about 4,130 people. It was 10.4 percent of total change (not including the children born to the immigrants after their arrival in the United States). 1   The remainder was due to net domestic migration and natural change (births minus deaths).


  1. A negative percentage results when there was an overall population decrease. A percentage greater than 100 percent results when domestic migration is negative, i.e, a net loss from interstate migration.

Immigrant Admissions

Recent "green card" recipients who intend to reside in Idaho were 607 percent above admissions just after adoption of the current immigration system in 1965. During the 1965 to 1969 period, annual admissions averaged about 381 persons. During the most recent five years, annual admissions averaged about 2,694 persons. Immigrant admissions data are from the Yearbook of Immigration Statistics.

The chart above shows recent immigrant admissions and the cumulative amount of immigrant admissions since FY'65. The cumulative total of immigrant admissions to Idaho between fiscal years 1965 and 2012 has been 67,955 persons.

The data for fiscal years 1989-91 were artificially raised by the inclusion of former illegal aliens who were amnestied in 1986. According to INS data (1991) the number of amnesty applicants from Idaho was 9,994 (2,075 pre-1982 residents and 7,919 agricultural workers). These data were published by the Immigration and Naturalization Service and reported in "Report on the Legalized Alien Population," March 1992.

Admissions by Nationality: FY'96 - FY'05

The table below furnishes INS data by nationality on the immigrants who were admitted for residence in Idaho between 1996 and 2005.

The INS data are for nationals of the countries with the largest number of immigrants admitted or adjusted to legal residence each year since 1996. The absence of data means that the total number of admissions to the United States by nationals of that country was not enough to merit detailed reporting in that year.

The Department of Homeland Security website has detailed data on immigrant admissions since FY'03 by year and by source country and intended state of residence. (See then select the desired year, click Legal Permanent Residents, data and then select "supplemental table 1."

Chart of Immigrant Admission by Fiscal Year


Idaho has received 11,506 refugees over the most recent ten fiscal years including 817 refugees in fiscal year 2012. The chart above shows the annual admissions over the last ten years and the cumulative total of those admissions using data complied by the Office of Refugee Resettlement in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The U.S. government program that distributes new refugees among the states is the only immigration program that provides state governments the opportunity to participate in deciding how many newcomers will come to that state each year.

Illegal Aliens

Idaho Fiscal Costs
Due to Illegal Aliens
           ($M) (Pct.)
K-12 educ. $93.60 49.9%
LEP educ. $18.80 10.0%
Medicaid+ $18.70 10.0%
SCHIP $4.30 2.3%
Justice $23.10 12.3%
Welfare+ $10.50 5.6%
General $18.70 10.0%
Total $187.60  
Tax receipts $11.40  
Net Cost $176.20  
Source: "The State Cost Studies"

FAIR Estimate - FAIR estimates the illegal alien population of Idaho as of 2010 was about 30,000 persons. This is part of an overall estimate of the U.S. illegal alien population of about 11,900,000 persons.

DHS Estimate - The current estimate by DHS of the illegal alien population in Idaho was n/a in 2012. The DHS estimate is available for only the 10 states with the largest illegal alien populations. The DHS estimate of the national illegal alien population in 2012 was 11,430,000.

Other Estimates - The Pew Hispanic Center estimates the illegal alien population of the state at 35,000 as of 2010.

Fiscal Cost of Illegal Aliens

FAIR's most recent estimate of the cost outlays due to illegal immigration and tax receipts from illegal aliens in Idaho are as shown on the right:

Limited English Proficiency Students

Data are not available nationally on immigrant students (either legally or illegally resident in the United States) who are enrolled in primary and secondary schools (K-12). However, a large majority of these students enrolled in Limited English Proficiency/English Language Learning (LEP/ELL) instruction programs may be assumed to be children of either legal or illegal immigrants with a predominance of children of illegal aliens.

In Idaho, LEP public school enrollment in 2010 ( 17,125) was 96.6 percent of LEP enrollment a decade earlier. By contrast, overall K-12 enrollment in the state was 112.6 percent of enrollment a decade earlier.

Population Projection

FAIR projected Idaho's population in 2050 likely would be between 2,468,000 million and 2,509,000 million with current levels of immigration. Alternatively, the population could be lower (2,275,000) if immigration were reduced to a level where it balanced the number of U.S. residents leaving to reside outside of the United states, i.e., zero-net immigration. See "Projecting the U.S. Population to 2050: Four Immigration Scenarios," FAIR 2006.

Foreign Students

Data compiled by the Institute of International Education (IIE) record the number of foreign students attending post-secondary school in Idaho as 3,247 in 2013.

The chart above illustrates the change in the number of foreign students attending school in Idaho since 1997.

For information on foreign student issues see: Foreign Students in the United States.

Immigration Impact

Environmental and Quality of Life Profile

Water: Idaho is the third largest water user in the U.S., consuming 19.5 billion gallons per day of freshwater. That number comes to a daily per-capita water demand of over 233 gallons.1 If this water usage is maintained, by 2050 the state could be requiring up to an additional 230 million gallons of water more per day than in 2008. Idaho will not likely be able to meet that increased demand.

The Eastern Snake River Plain Aquifer is an extremely significant source of groundwater for Southeastern Idaho. Additionally, this aquifer contributes heavily to the flow of the Snake River, a major Idahoan surface water source. However, beginning in the 1950's, increased groundwater withdrawals and reductions in natural replenishment created a trend of declining water levels that still continues.2

As an effort to replenish the depleting aquifer, the state-run Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program has begun a program which pays farmers a per acre rate to stop irrigating and to plant cover crops. Unfortunately, due to the high prices farmers can currently receive for grain, only about one-fifth of the expected acreage is enrolled in the program.3 Indeed, many farmers, initially enrolled, have paid thousands in fees in order withdraw and instead cash in on the current commodities market.4 However, crop production may ultimately be the first activity to be held back as a burgeoning population continues to demand more water, and the aquifer levels continue to decline.

With water growing scarcer, a series of legal battles have appeared before the Idaho Supreme Court, highlighting the bickering over water rights. With the current state of the Eastern Snake River Plain Aquifer, in the early fall of 2007, the state threatened to shut down the pumps of many who were taking more than their share. This prospect infuriated many farmers, municipalities, and businessmen, and sparked prolific legal rivalry over water-rights seniority.5

Vehicle traffic on Idaho highways climbed 50 percent between 1990 and 2008.6 As population growth put more traffic on the roads, the average commute for Idaho residents increased 16 percent between 1990 and 2005, from 17 to 19.8 minutes.7 About 9 percent of Idaho commuters had a commute of 45 minutes or longer in 2008.8

Traffic: One-fourth (24%) of the state's major roadways were rated as being in poor or mediocre condition in 2010, and 16 percent of its bridges are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. Driving on poorly-maintained roads costs each Idaho driver about $305 per year, which adds up to $316 million statewide.9

Disappearing open space: The amount of developed land in Idaho increased by 341,100 acres from 1982 to 2007, growing at a pace of 13,010 acres per year over the last ten years of that period.10 Urban development is expected to double by 2050 along with suburban development, which will nearly quadruple, resulting in a total loss of 4.5 million acres to urban and suburban development.11

Crowded housing: An estimated 13,537 of Idaho’s housing units were classified as crowded in 2008, defined as units with more than one occupant per room. This amounted to 2.4 percent of the state’s housing units. In addition, 2,579 units were severely crowded, with at least 1.5 occupants per room.12 Following the national trend, crowded housing rates were driven upward by immigration. 19 percent of children in immigrant families live in crowded housing, compared to just 7 percent of children with native-born parents.13

Sprawl: The city of Rexburg issued over $58 million in building permits in 2002, more than ten times the value of permits issued in an average year.14 Such unprecedented growth is not without its costs. After such developments are completed, new streets will be needed, along with other financial responsibilities, all of which must be paid by the city. Other cities face similar challenges as a result of rapid development challenges created by sprawl. Since 1998, Pocatello has spent close to $9 million (with another $2 million to be spent by 2004) in rehabilitating and expanding its sewer system in order to meet the demands of its growing population.15

Idaho's total energy use has increased by 57 percent since 1980 and 36 percent since 1990, making it the leading northwest state for energy consumption. This increase, according to Northwest Environment Watch, is directly attributable to rapid population growth in the state.16

Air pollution: As population increases, pollution usually rises along with it. Ada County, with nearly half the state's population, received an "F" for high ozone days from the American Lung Association in 2010.17 Many in Idaho are worried about the negative effects population growth will have on public health, since more people mean more cars, which increasing gas consumption and air pollution.18 Canyon County saw the worst levels of small particulate pollution in a decade during 2002, with up to a third of its pollution attributable to vehicle emissions.19

Poverty:Idaho's immigrants are more likely to be poor than their native-born counterparts. In 2007, 20.4 percent of foreign-born households were below the poverty line, compared to 11.6 percent of native households. An additional 15.6 percent of the foreign-born and 10.4 percent of native households were not in poverty but had incomes less than 1.5 times the poverty level.20 33.4 percent of children in immigrant families were poor in 2006, compared to 15.1 percent of native children.21

Education: Enrollment in Idaho's K-12 public education system increased by over 16,000 students (6.8 percent) between the 2000 and 2006 school year,22 and is projected to increase by an additional 35,000 students (13 percent) by 2015.23

School overcrowding is becoming a costly issue for Idaho, one that many communities cannot afford to bear. In July 2002, Idaho Falls School District 91 voted to spend $1.3 million to alleviate junior high schools crowding.24 The cost of the renovation is in part responsible for District 91's current budget crisis, which has its leaders looking to cut expenses and raise supplemental levy in order to survive.25 With many Idaho communities facing similar financial hardships, schools may have difficulty expanding to meet growing enrollments in the near future.26

Solid Waste: Idaho generates 0.8 tons of solid waste per capita each year.27

Labor Issues: The wave of immigrants flooding into Idaho leads to population increasing faster than job creation, leading to rising unemployment. As of December 2002, Kootenai County, Idaho's third fastest growing county, faced an eight percent unemployment rate (versus a national average of six percent); the Idaho Department of Labor says that "population growth exceeding job growth" is a primary reason.28


  1. USGS, Estimated Use of Water in the United States in 2005
  2. Dough Geller."Eastern Snake River Plain Aquifer." Emporia State University Hydrogeology. Spring 2006.
  3. Brad Carlson,"Commodity prices pressure water program," Idaho Business Review, June 2, 2008
  4. Associated Press,"High grain prices drain aquifer conservation plan," Idaho News, May 23, 2008.
  5. "Idaho water hearing could wrap up this week." Idaho Statesman, December 2007.
  6. The Road Information Project (TRIP), "Key Facts about Idaho's Surface Transportation System and Federal Funding," May 2010.
  7. "Table DP-1-4, Profile of General Demographic Characteristics: 2000," Census 2000, U.S. Census Bureau. "Selected Economic Characteristics: 2005" Data Set - 2005 American Community Survey, American Fact Finder, U.S. Census Bureau.
  8. American Community Survey, 2008 Estimates, Custom Data Table.
  9. The Road Information Project (TRIP), "Key Facts about Idaho's Surface Transportation System and Federal Funding," May 2010.
  10. USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, "Summary Report: 2007 National Resources Inventory."
  11. Editorial Board,"Planning for Growth Must be a Top Priority," Idaho Press-Tribune, June 30, 2001.
  12. American Community Survey, Three-Year Estimates 2006-2008. Data retrieved using ACS Custom Table tool.
  13. Kids Count Data Center, which used 2008 American Community Survey Data.
  14. Brian Davidson,"Rexburg Construction Sets New High- Number of Building Permits Up Tenfold," Idaho Falls Post Register, January 9, 2003.
  15. John O'Connell,"City Sewer in Midst of Three-Part Overhaul," Idaho State Journal, January 18, 2002.
  16. "How Idaho Measures Up," Measuring What Matters, The New Indicators Project, Northwest Environment Watch.
  17. American Lung Association, "State of the Air 2010."
  18. Sam Bass, Growth Threatens Air Quality," Idaho Press-Tribune, June 12, 2002.
  19. Nathaniel Hoffman,"Here is a Sign of a Problem, Growth," Idaho Press-Tribune, December 5, 2002.
  20. Migration Information Source State Data (Migration Policy Institute)
  21. Urban Institute, Children of Immigrants Data Tool.
  22. "Overview of Public Elementary and Secondary Schools and Districts: School Year 1999-2000," National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Department of Education."Public Elementary and Secondary School Student Enrollment, High School Completions, and Staff From the Common Core of Data: School Year 2005-06', National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Department of Education, June 2007.
  23. Ibid.
  24. Matthew Evans,"Taylorview Expanding to Accommodate Population," Idaho Falls Post Register, July 30, 2002.
  25. Matthew Evans,"District 91 Struggles to Find the Money to Pay the Bills," Lewistown Morning Tribune, February 19,2003.
  26. Kathy Hedberg,"Idaho's School Saga Resumes," Lewiston Morning Tribune, November 10, 2002.
  27. Report Card for America's Infrastructure 2005," American Society of Civil Engineers.
  28. Kathryn Tacke,"Kootenai County Profile," Idaho Department of Labor, January 2003.