How Immigrants Are Changing the Face of America: 2000 to 2010

By Julia at Legal Language
Posted on 11/10/2011
In Immigration



A report recently released by The Brookings Institution highlights how immigrants in America have changed the face of the country in the first decade of the 21st century.

The report, titled “Immigrants in 2010 Metropolitan America: A Decade of Change,” examines US Census data to elucidate metropolitan settlement patterns in the 2000s, reacting to the changing economic landscape of America.

The Brookings Institution is a non-profit Washington, DC-based public policy organization that describes itself as independent and non-partisan, although some media sources claim it is liberal-leaning. The Brookings Board of Trustees is comprised of prominent politicians on both sides of the political spectrum.

Immigration to America, by the Numbers

According to the report, the first decade of the 21st century saw a 28 percent increase in immigrants from the previous decade. That is, 8.8 million more immigrants were in the US from 2000 to 2010, for a total of about 40 million in 2010.

This increase is smaller than during previous periods. From 1990 to 2000, for example, the number of immigrants in America increased by 11.3 million, a 57 percent increase. Most of the growth in the 21st century occurred prior to 2006, likely due to the economic environment, but 2010 suggested there would be a rebound.

Today’s approximately 40 million foreign-born individuals in the US represent nearly 13 percent of the total population.

Where Immigrants Have Settled in America

America also saw a shift in the cities that immigrants settled in. The five metropolitan areas with the largest immigrant populations (New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Chicago and Houston) hosted only 38 percent of immigrants in 2010, a drop from 43 percent in 2000. Cities throughout the southeastern US, however, saw dramatic increases in foreign-born individuals.

The three metropolitan areas in America with the biggest growth in their immigrant populations were:

  • Scranton-Wilkes-Barre, Pa. with an increase of 140 percent
  • Cape Coral-Fort Myers, Fla., with an increase of 137 percent
  • Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway, Ark., with an increase of 124 percent

A majority (51 percent) of immigrants lived in suburbs outside of the 100 largest metropolitan areas in 2010. This proportion is up from 48 percent in 2000. Some metro areas saw more dramatic increases in immigrants living in the suburbs, mostly because these cities generally have high rates of suburbanization. For example, in the Atlanta area, 95 percent of immigrants reside in the suburbs. But so too do 92 percent of all Atlanta area residents.

Who the Immigrants Are

In 2010, immigrants in America were more likely to have been in this country for a decade or more (65 percent) than immigrants living here in 2000 (58 percent).

Origins of birth did not shift dramatically over the decade. Mexico remained the predominant birthplace of immigrants in American at 29 percent of the total immigrant population. Immigrants from Africa were the fastest-growing group, increasing in number by 83 percent, according to the report. The percentage of European immigrants dropped the most, from 16 percent in 2000 to 12 percent in 2010. Surprisingly, poverty rates among immigrants did not change much from 2000 to 2010, rising from 17.9 percent to 18.8 percent. Poverty increased at a higher rate among American-born individuals.

Overall, the first decade of the 21st century witnessed regular growth of immigrant populations in America but slowed slightly due to economic woes.


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