Pew Research Center Conducts Interesting Study on U.S. Immigrants

Written by Alexander J. Segal on

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Introduction

On May 3, 2017, the Pew Research Center released a highly interesting report titled “Key findings about U.S. immigrants” [link].1 The study contains numerous statistics and charts, and is well worth reading in full. In this post, I will examine a small selection of the statistics that are generally not readily found in official government reports.

Foreign-born individual

Discussion

Pew reported that there were 43.5 million foreign-born persons in the United States in 2015. This includes those in the United States without authorization, temporary lawful residents, lawful permanent residents, and naturalized citizens. In 2014, foreign-born persons made up 13.4% of the U.S. population. This nears the all-time record of 14.8% in 1890. The percentage-share of foreign-born persons has been steadily increasing since it hit an all-time low of 4.7% in 1970. Pew projected that the foreign born population would reach 78.2 million by 2065.

Of the foreign-born persons in the United States in 2015, Pew estimated that 75.5% are in the United States legally and 24.5% are in the United States without legal authorization.

Unsurprisingly, Pew reported that nearly half of all of the foreign-born persons in the United States in 2015 lived in just three states in 2015: California, Texas, and New York. These three states accounted for 46% of all foreign born individuals in the United States in 2015. 65% of all foreign born individuals lived in 20 major metropolitan areas.

Pew found that foreign-born individuals in the United States were far more likely than U.S.-born citizens to have not completed high school (29% to 9%). Furthermore, foreign born individuals were also more likely to have ceased their education at the high school level. Interestingly however, 30% of foreign-born individuals had college degrees compared with 31% of U.S.-born citizens. Part of the reason for the discrepancy is that a much larger percentage of U.S. born citizens (31%) had completed some college without obtaining at least a baccalaureate degree than did foreign born individuals (19%). It should be noted that there were also significant differences in educational outcomes depending on where foreign born individuals are from. For example, only 6% of Mexican-born individuals in the United States had at least a baccalaureate degree compared to 51% of individuals from South and East Asia, 48% of those the Middle East, and 42% from Europe and Canada.

In the final statistic that we will examine, 51% of foreign-born individuals aged five and older were proficient English-language speakers. Only 45% of foreign-born individuals living in the United States for five years or less were proficient, whereas 55% of foreign-born individuals living in the United States for twenty years or more were.

Conclusion

Pew's survey provided some very interesting statistics about trends in the foreign-born population in the United States. Non-partisan studies on things such as outcomes for immigrants and nonimmigrants by region, educational attainment, and English-language proficiency should be an essential part of future immigration reform efforts. It is essential to understand the outcomes of preexisting immigration policies in order to have the best idea of the kinds of reforms that are needed. Please see my recent analysis of President Donald Trump's address to a joint-session of Congress for some of my thoughts on how to reform our immigration system and links to other posts on that subject [see blog].

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  1. Lopez, Gustavo and Kristen Bialik. “Key findings about U.S. immigrants.” Pew Research Center, Washington, D.C. (May 3. 2017). http://pewrsr.ch/2qz2zvx