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Growing Foreign-Born Population Spreads Out From Traditional Urban Enclaves

MONDAY, FEB 17, 2020

The foreign-born U.S. population grew more than twice as fast as the total number of people living in the United States between 2010 and 2018, according to a Social Explorer analysis of recently released Census data.

The ranks of the foreign-born population swelled 12.4 percent, from 38.7 million in 2010 to 43.5 million in 2018, according to data from the 2006-10 and 2014-18 American Community Survey. During the same period, the total population grew 5.8 percent, from 309.3 million in 2010 to 327.2 million in 2018, one of the slowest growth rates in the nation’s history.

Bubble map of the foreign-born population totals by MSA from the 2014-18 ACS. Click here to explore further.

Ten major U.S. metros (New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Chicago, Houston, San Francisco, Washington, Dallas, Riverside, Calif., and Boston) accounted for more than half of all foreign-born residents in the U.S. The number of foreign-born residents in these 10 cities grew 11.2 percent during the decade – faster than the overall population, but slower than the foreign-born population growth, indicating that foreign-born communities are not just concentrating in cities, but also becoming more dispersed throughout the country.

Mexico remained the biggest source of foreign-born residents in the U.S., making up 11.4 million people, or 26.2 percent of the foreign-born population, a slight decrease from the 29.9 percent of the foreign-born residents counted in 2010. The 2.7 million Chinese immigrants made up 6.2 percent of the foreign-born population, an increase from the 5.3 percent counted in 2010, and the 2.5 million Indians accounted for 5.7 percent of the foreign-born population, an increase from the 4.4 percent reported in 2010.

Although most predominantly Mexican-born immigrant communities are scattered throughout states along the 1,954-mile-long border, the Census survey shows at least three places in the U.S. interior have Mexican-born populations that exceed 90 percent of the foreign-born population. The survey shows 92.6 percent of the foreign-born population of Othello, Wash., was born in Mexico; 91.2 percent of the foreign-born population in Hope, Ark.; and 90.6 percent of the population of Yakima, Wash. Agriculture plays a major role in the economies of all three places.

Percentage of foreign-born residents from Mexico by MSA, ACS 2014-18. Click here to explore further.

The nation’s second- and third-largest foreign-born populations were considerably less concentrated. Among places with more than 1,000 foreign-born residents, people born in China represented the greatest percentages in Ames, Iowa (40.5 percent); Troy, Ala. (36 percent); Starkville, Miss. (35.8 percent); Indiana, Penn. (32.4 percent); and Pullman, Wash. (31.1 percent).


Indians constituted the largest share of foreign-born populations in Bloomington, Ill. (44.9 percent); Columbus, Ind. (33.9 percent); Bartlesville, Okla. (29 percent); Yuba City, Calif. (23.7 percent); and Fairfield, Iowa (23.5 percent).

The flow of European-born immigrants, once a primary driver of U.S. population growth back in the early 20th century, continued to decline over the decade. The Census reported 4.78 million people living in the U.S. in 2018 who were born in Europe, about 11 percent of all foreign-born residents. The 2018 figures marked a slight decline from the 4.84 million reported in 2010.

Four places in the U.S. reported fewer than 100 foreign-born residents: Clarksdale, Miss. (99, 0.4 percent of the population); Logan, W.Va. (87, 0.2 percent); Grenada, Miss. (70, 0.3 percent); and West Point, Miss. (62, 0.3 percent).

Author: Frank Bass

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