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Immigrants in the United States 2000: A Snapshot of America's Foreign-born
by Steven Camarota

WASHINGTON (January 3, 2001) -- A new report by the Center for Immigration Studies finds that 28.4 million immigrants now live in the United States, the largest number ever recorded in the nation's history, and a 43 percent increase since 1990. The report finds that as a share of the nation's total population, immigrants now account for more than 1 in 10 residents (10.4 percent), the highest percentage in 70 years.

The report, entitled "Immigrants in the United States 2000: A Snapshot of America's Foreign-born" by the Center's Director of Research, Steven Camarota, contains detailed information -- not released by the Census Bureau -- on income, poverty, education, health insurance, citizenship, welfare, entrepreneurship, and many other characteristics of immigrants. The report also contains extensive information on high-immigrant states and metropolitan areas. The entire report is on line at

Among the report's findings:

  • By the end of the 1990s, a combined total of more than 1.2 million legal and illegal immigrants were settling in the United States each year.
  • The number of immigrants living in the United States has more than tripled since 1970, from 9.6 million to 28.4 million. As a percentage of the U.S. population, immigrants have more than doubled, from 4.7 percent in 1970 to 10.4 percent in 2000.
  • Immigration has become the determinate factor in U.S. population growth. The 11.2 million immigrants who indicated they arrived between 1990 and 2000 plus the 6.4 million children born to immigrants in the United States during the 1990s are equal to roughly two-thirds of U.S. population growth over the last 10 years.
"These new data confirm what many Americans are seeing with their own eyes -- the United States is the midst of the largest sustained wave of immigration in its history," said Camarota.

Other findings in the report:

  • In 2000, 37.4 percent of immigrants are naturalized citizens, and immigrants account for 5.5 percent of all eligible voters.
  • The immigrant population remains very concentrated, with 71 percent of immigrants living in just six states.
  • One-third of recent immigrants lack a high school diploma, more than three times the rate for natives. However, almost 11 percent of immigrants have a graduate or professional degree, compared to about 9 percent of natives.
  • More than half of post-1970 immigrants and their young children live in or near poverty, compared to 28 percent of natives and their young children.
  • One-third of immigrants do not have health insurance -- two and one-half times the rate for natives. Immigrants who arrived after 1989 and their U.S.-born children account for 60 percent or 5.5 million of the increase in the total size of the uninsured population.
  • Immigration accounts for virtually all of the national increase in public school enrollment over the last two decades. In 2000, there were 8.6 million school-age children from immigrant families in the United States.
Dr. Camarota points out that "Not only is immigration running at record levels, but because current policy allows in so many people who lack a formal education, immigration has resulted in an enormous growth in the poor and uninsured populations. The question has to be asked, is the country well served by our current immigration policy?"

"The limited value of their labor in an economy that increasingly demands educated workers means that the situation for many immigrants families remains precarious, despite the current prosperity," Camarota said. "With the economy slowing, the situation for immigrant families is likely to deteriorate dramatically and the costs of immigration to become glaringly apparent."

About The Author

Steven Camarota is the Center for Immigration Studies's Director of Research. The Center for Immigration Studies is a non-partisan, non-profit organization founded in 1985. It is the nation's only think tank devoted exclusively to research and policy analysis of the economic, social, demographic, fiscal, and other impacts of immigration on the United States.

It is the Center's mission to expand the base of public knowledge and understanding of the need for an immigration policy that gives first concern to the broad national interest.