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U.S. Foreign-Born Population Hits 33 Million

Now fastest growing segment of population


The foreign-born population of the United States exceeded 33 million in 2002, slightly more than the entire population of Canada, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's latest American Community Survey (ACS).

Of the total U.S. population, 11.8 percent were foreign-born and accounted for 44 percent of the nation's population growth in 2002. A majority of the foreign-born residents live in four states: California (28 percent), New York (11.8 percent), Texas (9.8 percent) and Florida (8.9 percent).

"The growth of the nation's foreign-born population reflects how attractive this country remains, both politically and economically, for people around the world," said Census Bureau Director Louis Kincannon in a recent press release.

As an example of the expanding presence of foreign-born residents, census analysts point out that if Miami-Dade County, Florida's nearly 1.2 million foreign-born residents comprised a city of their own, that city would be among the 10 largest in the nation.

"These data provide a moving picture of one of the fastest growing population segments in the United States, and they give leaders in government and business the knowledge they need to plan for the changes that population growth brings," said Kincannon.

Among states, California (26.9 percent) ranked first in the proportion of its population who were foreign-born. It was followed by New York (20.9 percent), New Jersey (18.9 percent) and Florida and Hawaii (17.9 percent each). States with some of the lowest foreign-born percentages included Mississippi (1.1 percent), West Virginia (1.2 percent) and Montana (1.6 percent).

In a ranking of large cities (with populations of 250,000 or more), the proportion of foreign- born in the city of Miami (60.6 percent) was greater than any other city in the nation, followed by Santa Ana, Calif. (48.4 percent), Los Angeles (41.3 percent), Anaheim, Calif. (40.3 percent), and San Francisco (36.7 percent). In fact, seven of the top 10 cities with the highest percentages of foreign-born were located in California. (See Table 3.) New York (36 percent) and Houston (28 percent) ranked seventh and ninth, while New Orleans, Memphis, Tenn., Louisville, Ky., and Toledo, Ohio, had some of the lowest percentages in the ranking of 68 cities.

Other highlights from the survey inlcude:

  • The U.S. foreign-born population increased nearly 5 percent between 2001 and 2002.

  • About 52 percent of the nation's foreign-born population is from Latin America, 27 percent from Asia and 15 percent from Europe.

  • California (34.9 percent), New York (10.7 percent) and Texas (6 percent) have the largest shares of foreign-born population from Asia.

  • Immigrants from Mexico comprise 30 percent of the nation's total foreign-born population, nearly 70 percent of whom live in three states: California (41 percent), Texas (21 percent)and Illinois (7 percent).

  • The largest share of the foreign-born population in New York comes from the Caribbean (25.6 percent), followed by Asia (24.3 percent) and Europe (20.5 percent).

  • More than 74 percent of all foreign-born Cubans reside in Florida, but Cubans represent just 22 percent of Florida's total foreign-born population.

  • More than half of the total foreign-born population from El Salvador reside in just two states, California (40 percent) and Texas (14 percent). Other states with high percentages of Salvadoran foreign-born include New York (7 percent), Maryland (6.4 percent), Florida (4.8 percent) and the District of Columbia (4.4 percent).

  • In Midwestern states, Iowa's foreign-born population increased an estimated 26 percent, to nearly 98,000 in 2002.

  • Seventy-five percent of the foreign-born population in the West lived in California.

    See: Detailed Census Bureau Tables on Foreign-born US Population

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