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Characteristics of the Foreign Born in the United States: Results from Census 2000

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Characteristics of the Foreign Born in the United States: Results from Census 2000

The United States, a country with a rich immigrant heritage, is experiencing a profound demographic and cultural transformation. The number of immigrants in the U.S. is at its highest point in history, and the rate of immigrant-driven transformation, which began in earnest in the 1960s, is expected to continue to accelerate.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the foreign-born population increased from 19.8 million in 1990 to 31.1 million in 2000, representing the largest number of immigrants ever seen in the United States. While the foreign born now account for 11.1 percent of the total population, this figure is still lower than the historic peak of 14.8 percent in 1890 (see graph below). This Spotlight examines some of the demographic, social, and economic characteristics of this important part of the U.S. population.

Number of Immigrants and Immigrants as Percentage of the US Population, 1850 to 2011

Note: The term "immigrants" refers to people residing in the United States who were not US citizens at birth. This population includes naturalized citizens, lawful permanent residents (LPRs), certain legal nonimmigrants (e.g., persons on student or work visas), those admitted under refugee or asylee status, and persons illegally residing in the United States.
Source: The 2011 and 2010 data are from the US Census Bureau's American Community Surveys, the 2000 data are from Census 2000 (see www.census.gov). All other data are from Gibson, Campbell and Emily Lennon, US Census Bureau, Working Paper No. 29, Historical Census Statistics on the Foreign-Born Population of the United States: 1850 to 1990, US Government Printing Office, Washington, DC, 1999.

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There are over 31.1 million foreign born in the United States, representing 11.1 percent of the total population.

There has been a steady increase in the number and percentage of foreign born in the United States since 1980. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were over 31.1 million foreign born in the United States in 2000, representing 11.1 percent of the total population. In 1990, there were 19.8 million foreign born, or 7.9 percent of the total population. In 1980, there were 14.1 million foreign born, or 6.2 percent of the total population.

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Between 1990 and 2000, the foreign-born population increased by 11.3 million people, representing a 57.4 percent increase.

The foreign-born population increased at a faster rate between 1990 and 2000 than between 1980 and 1990. Between 1990 and 2000, the foreign-born population increased by 11.3 million, representing a 57.4 percent increase. Between 1980 and 1990, the foreign-born population increased by 5.7 million, or by 40.4 percent.

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Of the total foreign born, 42.4 percent arrived between 1990 and 2000.

According to Census 2000, of the total foreign born in the United States, 42.4 percent arrived between 1990 and 2000, 27.2 percent arrived between 1980 and 1989, and 30.4 percent arrived before 1980.

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Most of the foreign born are from Latin America.

Of the total foreign born in the United States in 2000, 51.7 percent were from Latin America, 26.4 percent from Asia, 15.8 percent from Europe, 2.8 percent from Africa, 2.7 percent from Northern America (including Canada, the United States, Bermuda, Greenland, and St. Pierre and Miquelon), and 0.5 percent from Oceania. Of the 16.1 million foreign born from Latin America, 69.6 percent were from Central America, 18.4 percent from the Caribbean, and 12 percent from South America.

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The top three countries of birth are Mexico, the Philippines, and India.

According to Census 2000, of the total foreign born in the United States, 29.5 percent were born in Mexico, 4.4 percent in the Philippines, and 3.3 percent in India. This is followed by 3.2 percent in China (excluding Hong Kong and Taiwan), 3.2 percent in Vietnam, 2.8 percent in Cuba, 2.8 percent in Korea, 2.6 percent in Canada, 2.6 percent in El Salvador, and 2.3 percent in Germany.

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The majority of the foreign born describe their race as either white alone or Asian alone.

Of the total foreign born in the United States, the majority reported white alone (43 percent) or Asian alone (22.5 percent) as their race in Census 2000. Additionally, 21.5 percent reported some other race alone, 6.8 percent black or African American alone, 0.4 percent American Indian and Alaska Native alone, 0.2 percent Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander alone, and 5.5 percent two or more races.

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Of the total foreign-born population, 45.5 percent are Hispanic or Latino.

In the United States, there were 14.2 million foreign born who reported a Hispanic/Latino origin in Census 2000, representing 45.5 percent of the total foreign-born population (31.1 million) and 40.2 percent of the total Hispanic/Latino population (35.2 million).

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Of the total foreign-born population, 40.3 percent are citizens.

Census 2000 reported that 40.3 percent of all foreign born in the United States were citizens. By comparison, 40.5 percent of all foreign born in 1990 and 50.5 percent of all foreign born in 1980 were citizens.

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Among the foreign born, 17.9 percent live in poverty.

According to Census 2000, among the foreign born for whom poverty status was determined, 17.9 percent had an income in 1999 below poverty level (the poverty threshold for a family of four people was $17,000). Among foreign-born citizens, 10.6 percent lived in poverty, compared with 22.8 percent of foreign-born non-citizens.

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Over four out of every five foreign born speak a language other than English at home.

In 2000, of the foreign born five years and over in the United States, 83 percent spoke a language other than English at home. This included 52.3 percent who spoke Spanish, 21.9 percent who spoke other Indo-European languages, 21.6 percent who spoke Asian and Pacific Island languages, and 4.2 percent who spoke other languages.

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Among the foreign born who speak a language other than English at home, 38.5 percent speak English "very well" while 12.2 percent speak English "not at all."

In the United States in 2000, of the foreign born five years and over who spoke a language other than English at home, 38.5 percent reported speaking English "very well," 26.3 percent "well," 22.9 percent "not well," and 12.2 percent "not at all."

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Among the foreign born who speak Spanish at home, 52 percent speak English "very well" or "well."

According to Census 2000, of the foreign born five years and over in the United States who spoke Spanish at home, 52 percent spoke English "very well" or "well." By comparison, 82.4 percent of those who spoke other Indo-European languages, 73.7 percent who spoke Asian languages, and 87.4 percent of those who spoke other languages at home reported speaking English "very well" or "well."

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SOURCE:

U.S. Census Bureau, Census 2000 and the 1990 Census of Population and Housing and Gibson, Campbell and Emily Lennon, U.S. Census Bureau, Working Paper No. 29, Historical Census Statistics on the Foreign-Born Population of the United States: 1850 to 1990, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC, 1999.