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A Record-Setting Decade of Immigration: 2000-2010

A Record-Setting Decade of Immigration: 2000-2010

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New data from the Census Bureau show that the nation’s immigrant population (legal and illegal), also referred to as the foreign-born, reached 40 million in 2010, the highest number in American history. Nearly 14 million new immigrants (legal and illegal) settled in the country from 2000 to 2010, making it the highest decade of immigration in American history. This is the case even though there was a net decline of jobs during the decade. In contrast, from 1990 to 2000 job growth was 22 million and 13.2 million new immigrants arrived. Immigrants come for many reasons, such as a desire to join relatives or to access public services. As a result, immigration remains high even during a prolonged period of economic weakness.

Among the findings:

The nation’s immigrant population (legal and illegal) reached 40 million in 2010, the highest number in the nation’s history.

The nation’s immigrant population has doubled since 1990, nearly tripled since 1980, and quadrupled since 1970, when it stood at 9.7 million.

Of the 40 million immigrants in the country in 2010, 13.9 million arrived in 2000 or later making it the highest decade of immigration in American history, even though there was a net loss of jobs during the decade.

New arrivals are offset by out-migration and deaths. As a result, the net increase in the immigrant population was more than 8.8 million over the last decade, from 31.1 million in 2000.

While the number of immigrants in the country is higher than at any time in American history, the immigrant share of the population (12.9 percent) was higher 90 years ago.

Growth in the immigrant population has primarily been driven by high levels of legal immigration. Roughly three-fourths of immigrants in the country are here legally.

Immigrants continue to head to non-traditional states of settlement. The six states with the largest immigrant populations accounted for 65 percent of the total in 2010, 68 percent in 2000, and 73 percent in 1990.

Overall the immigrant population grew 28 percent between 2000 and 2010. But it grew at more than twice the national rate in: Alabama (92 percent), South Carolina (88 percent), Tennessee (82 percent), Arkansas (79 percent), Kentucky (75 percent), North Carolina (67 percent), South Dakota (65 percent), Georgia (63 percent), Indiana (61 percent), Nevada (61 percent), Delaware (60 percent), Virginia (60 percent), and Oklahoma (57 percent).

Since 1990 the immigrant population has doubled. It grew at more than twice the national rate in: North Carolina (525 percent), Georgia (445 percent), Arkansas (430 percent), Tennessee (389 percent), Nevada (385 percent), South Carolina (337 percent), Kentucky (312 percent), Nebraska (298 percent), Alabama (287 percent), Utah (280 percent), Colorado (249 percent), Minnesota (235 percent), Delaware (223 percent), Iowa (222 percent), Indiana (219 percent), Oklahoma (215 percent), and Arizona (208 percent).

States with the largest numerical increases over the last decade were: California, Texas, Florida, New York, New Jersey, Georgia, Virginia, North Carolina, Maryland, Washington, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts.

Latin America continued to dominate immigration. Countries from this region accounted for 58 percent of the growth in the immigrant population from 2000 to 2010.

With nearly 12 million immigrants, Mexico was by far the top immigrant-sending country, accounting for 29 percent of all immigrants and 29 percent of growth in the immigrant population from 2000 to 2010.

Other countries have also seen significant growth in their populations. In 1990 there was only one sending-country with more than one million immigrants in the United States, by 2000 there were four such countries, and in 2010 there were eight.

The median age of immigrants in 2010 was 41.4 compared to 35.9 for natives.

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