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The Growth And Reach Of Immigration: New Census Bureau Data Underscore Importance Of Immigrants In The US Labor Force

by Rob Paral for The Immigration Policy Center

Introduction:

New data from the 2005 American Community Survey (ACS) [1], released by the Census Bureau on August 15, 2006, underscore the extent to which immigration continues to fuel the expansion of the U.S. labor force. The foreign-born population of the United States increased by 4.9 million between 2000 and 2005; raising the total foreign-born population to 35.7 million, or 12.4 percent of the 288.4 million people in the country. The foreign-born population includes legal immigrants who come here on permanent and temporary visas for work, study, and family reunification, as well as an estimated 11.5 million undocumented immigrants who come for the same reasons but are generally precluded from obtaining visas by shortcomings in the U.S. immigration system.

Since most legal and undocumented immigrants alike come to the United States to work, it is no surprise that they are moving to all regions of the country. While the majority of immigrants still settle in traditional "gateway" states such as California, Florida, New York, and Texas, growing numbers also are settling in "non-traditional" destinations like South Carolina, Georgia, and Tennessee. Moreover, immigration is stabilizing the populations of many Northeastern states such as Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. Yet the continued growth of the immigrant population and its dispersion to new locales does not imply that native-born workers are being displaced or otherwise disadvantaged by the influx of foreign-born workers. Quite the opposite, in fact. Immigrants are going where there are job openings and economic opportunities. As a recent study by the Pew Hispanic Center concludes: "Between 2000 and 2004, there was a positive correlation between the increase in the foreign born population and the employment of native-born workers in 27 states and the District of Columbia," which "accounted for 67% of all native-born workers and include all the major destination states for immigrants." [2]

The primary reason that immigrants donít have a negative impact on the majority of native-born workers is that they arenít competing for the same jobs. The U.S. population is growing older and better educated, while the U.S. economy continues to create a large number of jobs that favor younger workers with little formal education. As a result, immigrants increasingly are filling jobs at the less-skilled end of the occupational spectrum for which relatively few native-born workers are available. According to the new ACS data, between 2000 and 2005, the median age of the U.S. population increased from 35.3 to 36.4 years old. During the same period, the share of adults with at least a high-school diploma increased from 80 to 84 percent, while the share with at least a bachelorís degree rose from 24 to 27 percent. Not surprisingly, few of these better educated (and older) native-born workers are willing or able to fill the frequently strenuous less-skilled jobs that donít even require a high-school education. But immigrants are. That immigrants come here to fill available jobs is evident in the fact that, as of 2005, 94 percent of adult male undocumented immigrants and 86 percent of adult male legal immigrants were in the labor force. [3] As Congress debates competing proposals for comprehensive immigration reform, it would do well to pay close attention to these trends. Immigrants are already an integral part of U.S. society and an indispensable part of the U.S. labor force.

National Findings

According to the 2005 ACS data, the foreign-born population in 2005 numbered 35.7 million. While the U.S. population as a whole increased by 5.4 percent in the 2000-2005 period, the number of immigrants grew three times faster, at a rate of 16 percent.

Population Change 2000-2005
  2000 2005 Net Number Change Pct. Change
Total Population 273,637,396 288,378,137 14,740,741 5.4%
Foreign Born 30,760,065 35,689,842 4,929,777 16.0%

About one in eight persons in the United States was born outside the country as of 2005. This represents an increase of more than one percent in five years. Immigrants comprise an even greater share of adults in the United States: 15.1 percent, or one in six persons.

Percent Foreign Born
  2000 2005
Total Population 11.2% 12.4%
Adults 13.6% 15.1%

Immigrants from Latin America constituted a majority (57.3 percent) of the 7.9 million new immigrants who arrived in the United States between 2000 and 2005. One quarter of recent arrivals came from Asia and about 9.6 percent from Europe. However, over this same time period, about 3 million foreign-born individuals in the United States either died or returned to their home countries, meaning that the foreign-born population as a whole increased by a lesser margin of 4.9 million.

New Immigrant Arrivals: 2000-2005
  Arrivals Pct. of Total
Total
Europe
7,939,822
764,527
100.0%
9.6%
Asia
Mexico
2,001,195
2,796,118
25.2%
35.2%
Other Latin America
Other areas
1,751,998
625,984
22.1%
7.9%

State-by-State Trends

Six states have immigrant populations of more than one million: California, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, and Texas. These states have long been the major ports of entry for immigrants to the United States and this continues to be the case today. In 2005, two-thirds of immigrants in the United States resided in these traditional immigration gateways. However, immigrant populations of more than 500,000 are now found in new destinations such as North Carolina, Maryland, Virginia, and Georgia.

California still is the state with the highest proportion of immigrants in its population. More than 27 percent of California residents were foreign-born in 2005. Immigrants account for more than one in six persons (15 percent or more) in seven states: California, New York, Texas, Florida, New Jersey, Nevada, and Hawaii.

Although the largest immigrant populations are still concentrated in a relatively small number of states, immigration growth rates are highest in "non-traditional" destinations in the South and Midwest. For instance, the number of immigrants in South Carolina grew by 47.8 percent in just the 2000-2005 period. In Georgia (which has the ninth largest immigrant population in the United States), the foreign-born population increased by almost 39 percent in five years.

Foreign Born in 2005
  Foreign Born
Population
Foreign Born Share
of Total Population
Net Numeric Increase
in Foreign Born
Growth Rate
United States
California
New York
Texas
Florida
35,689,842
9,611,356
3,997,268
3,542,513
3,212,955
12.4%
27.2%
21.4%
15.9%
18.5%
4,929,777
801,715
178,240
664,010
578,606
16.0%
9.1%
4.7%
23.1%
22.0%
Illinois
New Jersey
Massachusetts
Arizona
Georgia
1,695,289
1,662,857
891,184
843,296
795,419
13.6%
19.5%
14.4%
14.5%
9.0%
176,789
203,850
138,285
188,550
222,258
11.6%
14.0%
18.4%
28.8%
38.8%
Washington
Virginia
Maryland
Michigan
Pennsylvania
750,258
723,667
641,373
605,656
603,674
12.2%
9.9%
11.7%
6.1%
5.0%
141,636
162,335
129,333
94,690
108,657
23.3%
28.9%
25.3%
18.5%
22.0%
North Carolina
Colorado
Connecticut
Nevada
Ohio
560,753
460,294
423,254
413,298
387,216
6.7%
10.1%
12.5%
17.4%
3.5%
135,507
93,044
62,132
98,134
49,013
31.9%
25.3%
17.2%
31.1%
14.5%
Oregon
Minnesota
Indiana
Wisconsin
Tennessee
344,575
316,716
242,281
227,372
223,118
9.7%
6.3%
4.0%
4.2%
3.8%
58,815
64,998
55,834
40,641
66,630
20.6%
25.8%
29.9%
21.8%
42.6%
Hawaii
Missouri
Utah
South Carolina
New Mexico
212,404
193,735
192,916
170,750
168,640
17.2%
3.4%
7.9%
4.2%
8.9%
3,129
43,732
36,850
55,242
21,190
1.5%
29.2%
23.6%
47.8%
14.4%
Oklahoma
Kansas
Rhode Island
Louisiana
Alabama
155,880
153,535
130,517
121,590
120,773
4.5%
5.8%
12.6%
2.8%
2.7%
29,558
19,065
13,864
5,226
33,806
23.4%
14.2%
11.9%
4.5%
38.9%
Iowa
Arkansas
Kentucky
Nebraska
Idaho
103,143
101,169
98,798
96,127
76,377
3.6%
3.7%
2.4%
5.6%
5.5%
15,928
29,235
24,057
24,539
13,854
18.3%
40.6%
32.2%
34.3%
22.2%
New Hampshire
Dist. of Columbia
Delaware
Mississippi
Maine
72,480
67,717
62,867
43,336
38,727
5.7%
13.1%
7.7%
1.5%
3.0%
22,473
-4,715
18,110
6,663
3,203
44.9%
-6.5%
40.5%
18.2%
9.0%
Alaska
Vermont
West Virginia
South Dakota
Montana
34,368
21,843
19,302
17,269
16,734
5.4%
3.6%
1.1%
2.3%
1.8%
-2,196
-24
-659
3,411
647
-6.0%
-0.1%
-3.3%
24.6%
4.0%
North Dakota
Wyoming
11,968
11,235
2.0%
2.3%
478
-591
4.2%
-5.0%

Much of the immigration occurring in states with the highest immigration growth rates is recent. About 38 percent of immigrants in Alabama, for example, have entered the United States since 2000. Similar percentages are found in South Carolina, Tennessee, and Kentucky. The presence of many newly arrived immigrants suggests a need for settlement policies such as English-language classes to facilitate the integration of immigrants into U.S. society and thereby maximize their contributions to the U.S. economy.

Percent of Immigrants Who Arrived Since 2000
  Foreign Born
in 2005
Entered 2000
or later
% Entered 2000
or later
United States
South Dakota
South Carolina
Alabama
Tennessee
35,689,842
17,269
170,750
120,773
223,118
7,939,822
7,593
69,820
46,028
83,658
22.2%
44.0%
40.9%
38.1%
37.5%
Kentucky
North Carolina
Indiana
Mississippi
Delaware
98,798
560,753
242,281
43,336
62,867
34,925
195,646
83,073
14,488
20,138
35.3%
34.9%
34.3%
33.4%
32.0%
Georgia
Arkansas
Nebraska
Missouri
Kansas
795,419
101,169
96,127
193,735
153,535
253,520
31,951
29,958
59,910
45,495
31.9%
31.6%
31.2%
30.9%
29.6%
Maryland
Oklahoma
Arizona
Utah
Colorado
641,373
155,880
843,296
192,916
460,294
182,884
44,272
239,142
54,601
129,463
28.5%
28.4%
28.4%
28.3%
28.1%
Iowa
Minnesota
North Dakota
Idaho
Ohio
103,143
316,716
11,968
76,377
387,216
28,884
88,683
3,343
21,106
106,703
28.0%
28.0%
27.9%
27.6%
27.6%
Oregon
Wisconsin
Michigan
New Mexico
Washington
344,575
227,372
605,656
168,640
750,258
92,249
60,776
161,326
44,486
196,709
26.8%
26.7%
26.6%
26.4%
26.2%
New Hampshire
Virginia
Dist. of Columbia
Pennsylvania
Massachusetts
72,480
723,667
67,717
603,674
891,184
18,795
186,135
17,183
152,663
213,634
25.9%
25.7%
25.4%
25.3%
24.0%
Texas
Florida
Nevada
Connecticut
New Jersey
3,542,513
3,212,955
413,298
423,254
1,662,857
841,877
727,936
92,932
94,366
350,023
23.8%
22.7%
22.5%
22.3%
21.0%
Illinois
Rhode Island
Louisiana
Montana
Vermont
1,695,289
130,517
121,590
16,734
21,843
349,135
26,471
23,601
3,219
4,166
20.6%
20.3%
19.4%
19.2%
19.1%
West Virginia
Hawaii
New York
California
Maine
19,302
212,404
3,997,268
9,611,356
38,727
3,646
37,747
692,794
1,658,255
6,662
18.9%
17.8%
17.3%
17.3%
17.2%
Alaska
Wyoming
34,368
11,235
5,869
1,883
17.1%
16.8%

In many Northeastern and Midwestern states which have aging populations and are experiencing out-migration and low fertility rates among natives, immigration plays an especially critical role in maintaining population size. Massachusetts is the most striking example. New immigration since 2000 actually exceeded overall population growth, suggesting that the state would have experienced a net population decline in the absence of immigration. Immigration also is a major factor in population stability in Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Rhode Island.

Immigration as a Percent of Overall Population Change: 2000-2005
  Population
Change 2000-2005
Net Foreign
Born Population
Change 2000-2005
Foreign Born
Change as Percent
of Population
Change 2000-2005
United States
Massachusetts
Pennsylvania
New York
New Jersey
14,740,741
51,108
136,970
259,978
299,588
4,929,777
138,285
108,657
178,240
203,850
33.4%
270.6%
79.3%
68.6%
68.0%
Connecticut
Rhode Island
Michigan
Illinois
Nebraska
94,914
23,088
179,853
345,481
48,098
62,132
13,864
94,690
176,789
24,539
65.5%
60.0%
52.6%
51.2%
51.0%
Ohio
Maryland
Iowa
Washington
California
101,426
295,788
43,581
388,043
2,213,567
49,013
129,333
15,928
141,636
801,715
48.3%
43.7%
36.5%
36.5%
36.2%
Virginia
Texas
Kansas
Florida
Oklahoma
483,832
1,983,512
57,552
1,784,671
96,046
162,335
664,010
19,065
578,606
29,558
33.6%
33.5%
33.1%
32.4%
30.8%
New Hampshire
Alabama
Minnesota
Delaware
Indiana
73,297
110,545
213,748
60,008
190,172
22,473
33,806
64,998
18,110
55,834
30.7%
30.6%
30.4%
30.2%
29.4%
Arkansas
Oregon
Georgia
Colorado
Tennessee
103,083
212,802
868,924
364,579
270,370
29,235
58,815
222,258
93,044
66,630
28.4%
27.6%
25.6%
25.5%
24.6%
Nevada
South Carolina
Arizona
Wisconsin
Dist. of Columbia
414,660
235,454
805,909
174,593
-20,949
98,134
55,242
188,550
40,641
-4,715
23.7%
23.5%
23.4%
23.3%
22.5%
Missouri
North Carolina
New Mexico
Kentucky
South Dakota
198,826
617,314
104,913
132,765
20,655
43,732
135,507
21,190
24,057
3,411
22.0%
22.0%
20.2%
18.1%
16.5%
Utah
Idaho
Louisiana
Mississippi
Maine
237,028
133,174
56,253
75,573
43,265
36,850
13,854
5,226
6,663
3,203
15.5%
10.4%
9.3%
8.8%
7.4%
Hawaii
Montana
Vermont
Wyoming
North Dakota
62,055
32,725
14,719
15,483
-9,061
3,129
647
-24
-591
478
5.0%
2.0%
-0.2%
-3.8%
-5.3%
Alaska
West Virginia
34,828
5,935
-2,196
-659
-6.3%
-11.1%

Naturalized immigrants make up an increasing share of the potential electorate in states with large immigrant populations. Nowhere is this more evident than in California, which not only has a large immigrant population, but also was the site of large-scale naturalization drives in the 1990s. Today, naturalized immigrants comprise one in five voting-age adults in California. Naturalized immigrants are more than 10 percent of adults in New York, New Jersey, Hawaii, and Florida.

Naturalized Citizen Pct. of
Voting-Age Population
United States
California
New York
New Jersey
Hawaii
7.3%
19.4%
15.9%
14.1%
13.4%
Florida
Nevada
Massachusetts
Illinois
Connecticut
12.0%
9.8%
8.8%
8.4%
8.3%
Rhode Island
Texas
Maryland
Washington
Arizona
8.1%
7.6%
7.2%
6.9%
6.7%
Dist. of Columbia
Virginia
Alaska
Colorado
Oregon
5.8%
5.7%
4.4%
4.3%
4.3%
Delaware
New Mexico
Georgia
Michigan
New Hampshire
4.1%
4.0%
3.9%
3.7%
3.5%
Utah
Pennsylvania
Minnesota
Kansas
North Carolina
3.5%
3.1%
3.1%
2.5%
2.4%
Vermont
Idaho
Nebraska
Wisconsin
Ohio
2.4%
2.3%
2.3%
2.2%
2.1%
Maine
Louisiana
Missouri
Oklahoma
Indiana
2.0%
1.8%
1.8%
1.8%
1.7%
South Carolina
Tennessee
Iowa
Montana
Wyoming
1.5%
1.5%
1.4%
1.3%
1.1%
Arkansas
Kentucky
North Dakota
Alabama
Mississippi
1.1%
1.1%
1.0%
1.0%
0.9%
South Dakota
West Virginia
0.8%
0.8%

Conclusion

The growth of the immigrant population since 2000, as well as the dispersion of immigration to new destinations and its role in shoring up the populations of some states, highlights the profound importance of immigration to the U.S. labor force. As a recent study by the Migration Policy Institute concluded, immigrant workers will likely account for between one-third and one-half of total U.S. labor-force growth through 2030. [4] The breadth and depth of this phenomenon contrasts with the failure of Congress to enact comprehensive immigration reform to adjust our nationís immigration laws to match demographic reality. Much more is needed in terms of admissions policy, including new categories of permanent and temporary visas for workers, family members, students, and other visitors, as well as the lifting of arbitrary numerical caps on immigration. Lawmakers also need to devote greater attention to settlement policy, such as English-language instruction and assistance with meeting other requirements for naturalization, to better integrate immigrants into U.S. society and increase their contributions to the U.S. economy. One can only hope that our lawmakers finally open their eyes to the demographic march of immigration.


Endnotes

1 The 2005 American Community Survey included 3 percent of all households in the United States, which represents a substantial advance in the quality of intercensal population estimates. The ACS excludes the small percentage of persons who live in group quarters including prisons and nursing homes. To make the numbers in this report comparable with the 2000 census (which covered the entire population), all 2000 data are for the population in households, excluding residents of group quarters.

2 Rakesh Kochhar, Growth in the Foreign-Born Workforce and Employment of the Native Born. Washington, DC: Pew Hispanic Center, August 10, 2006, p. ii.

3 Jeffrey S. Passel, The Size and Characteristics of the Unauthorized Migrant Population in the U.S.: Estimates Based on the March 2005 Current Population Survey. Washington, DC: Pew Hispanic Center, March 7, 2005, p. 9.

4 B. Lindsay Lowell, Julia Gelatt & Jeanne Batalova, Immigrants and Labor Force Trends: The Future, Past, and Present. Washington, DC: Migration Policy Institute, July 2006, p. 1.

Copyright: The material above was originally produced by the Immigration Policy Center of the American Immigration Law Foundation. Reproduced with Permission.


About The Author

Rob Paral is a Research Fellow with the Immigration Policy Center; he is also a Fellow with the Institute for Latino Studies at Notre Dame University. He may be reached at info@robparal.com. Michael Norkewicz provided invaluable data processing skills to make this report possible.


The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.


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