If you watch the nightly news, you might think the few thousand migrants from Central America trying to enter the United States to seek asylum would tip the balance in the American population. A statistical portrait of the foreign-born population in America suggests otherwise.
The Pew Research Center has an online tutorial on US immigration to help Americans better recognize their immigrant neighbors who are already here, many of whom for more than a decade. Pew estimates there were 43.7 million immigrants in the United States in 2016, which is more than any other country in the world.
Contrary to impressions left by news stories of migrant caravans, Pew says three-fourths of the US immigrant population is here legally as naturalized citizens, permanent residents, green card holders or people with temporary visas to attend college or other purposes.
The rate of immigration into the United States has shot up since passage in 1965 of the Immigration and Naturalization Act. The foreign-born population since then has quadrupled. The legislation was passed in recognition that immigrants would be needed to make up for relatively low US birthrates.
The most noticeable and consequential change in US immigration patterns since 1960 has been the decline of European and Canadian immigrants and a sharp increase in immigrants from Mexico, Latin America and Asia. For example, Asians represented just 4 percent of all immigrants in 1960. In 2016, they accounted for 27 percent. Statistics for Mexican immigration are similar, rising from 6 percent in 1960 to 28 percent in 2016.
While Pew doesn’t say it, more immigrants of color, with different cultural and religious traditions, has contributed to heightened awareness of and in some cases hostility toward immigrants, a factor that played a significant role of the 2016 Trump presidential campaign.
Pew notes that 75 percent of foreign-born immigrants have lived in the United States for more than 10 years. Immigrants account for almost 14 percent of US population, while second-generation, US-born children constitute another 12 percent.
Trump’s attention glued to the US-Mexican border overlooks that Asian immigrants now outnumber Hispanic immigrants, according to Pew. The estimated number of unauthorized immigrants in the United States has dropped slightly from a high of 12.2 percent in 2007 to 11.3 percent in 2016. Unauthorized immigrants have been relatively constant since around 2000. Some 11.6 million US immigrants were born in Mexico, which eclipses the next highest birth countries, China (2.7 million) and India (2.4 million)
Another noteworthy statistic is that more than 15 percent of immigrants 25 years or older have earned bachelor’s degrees and another 12 percent hold post-graduate degrees.
In 1960, male and female immigrants were roughly equal and tended to be older (55-74). In 2016, immigrants remained roughly equal by sex, but were significantly younger (30-54). Mexican immigrants were the youngest with a median age of 42.
Second-generation children of immigrants in 2016 were largely younger, from ages 0-19. More than 50 years later, second-generation children are more evenly balanced from ages 0-69.
There is a huge geographical disparity as to where immigrants live. Almost 35 percent live in the Western United States, while 33 percent live in the South. California, Texas and New York are home to 46 percent of immigrants. Sixty percent of immigrants live in just 20 US metropolitan areas.
What disquiets some Americans are projections that people of color will overtake Caucasians as the majority population by the middle of this century. Some anti-immigrant groups warn of rising crime, but official data indicates first-generation immigrants have lower crime rates and are more likely to be married than the average US population