Pew Research: Immigration to U.S. Is Slowing

At the 50-year mark, the Pew Research Center has produced a 100-year history and projection of U.S. immigration, beginning with the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act and ending 50 years from now in 2065. The U.S. foreign-born population has gone from less than 10 million people 50 years ago to nearly 45 million people today and is projected to continue to rise sharply in the next 50 years to 78 million people.

Hispanics as a share of the nation’s foreign-born grew from 14 percent in 1965 to 48 percent in 2005. Their proportion is now falling, even as the proportion of Asians rises. In 2055, Pew projects that 36 percent of the nation’s foreign-born will be Asian and 34 percent Hispanic.

The number of new immigrants coming to the U.S. peaked at eight million arriving from 2000 through 2005; six million came from 2008 through 2013. Even so, Pew predicts that in 2065 a “record share” of the U.S. population will be foreign-born (18 percent versus 14 percent in 1900) and children of the foreign-born (at least one foreign-born parent), for a total of 36 percent of the population. That compares to 26 percent of the population today.

The Northeast in 1960 had 47 percent of the foreign-born population; it had 22 percent in 2013. The South has gone from having 10 percent of the foreign-born population to 32 percent in 2013.

The foreign-born are settling in places other than Los Angeles County, Calif.; Miami-Dade County, Fla., Cook County, Ill., (Chicago); Queens County, N.Y., (New York City); and Harris County, Texas, (Houston). In 1990, those five counties had 30 percent of the nation’s foreign-born population. Today they have 20 percent.

A part of the change is the dispersal of Hispanics across the country, said Richard Fry, a Pew senior researcher who led the project and wrote a portion of the report. They have not researched whether the Asian population is showing the same pattern of change, he said.

California in particular is losing its attraction for immigrants. In 1990, 38 percent of the immigrants that had arrived in the country in the previous five years had settled in the state. In 2013, that share had fallen to 18 percent. The change, which was occurring even before the Great Recession, is also attributable to Hispanic dispersion, Fry said, but “only in part.”

“One of the common reasons given for the dispersion of immigrants away form the traditional gateway states is job-market opportunities,” Fry said in an email response to a query on why California had become less attractive. “During the 1990s, many unskilled labor-market opportunities opened up in states that traditionally had not been attractive to new immigrants.”

The U.S. has the world’s largest immigrant population, with about one in five, or 20 percent, of global migrants, Pew says.

The 128-page report includes extensive references and statistical appendices with a few California and Los Angeles-specific insights but is largely a high-level view.
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