E.g., 07/29/2014
E.g., 07/29/2014

Mexican and Central American Immigrants in the United States

Since 1970, the immigrant populations from Mexico and Central America living in the United States have increased significantly: rising by a factor of 20 even as the total U.S. immigrant population increased four-fold over the period. In addition, numerical limits on permanent migration from the Western Hemisphere and the ending of the guest worker programs of the mid-20th century, in combination with increased demand for low-skilled labor, translated into a substantial share of  immigrants from Mexico and Central America being unauthorized. Because of this, as well as their low education levels and limited English proficiency, first-generation immigrants face substantial barriers.

This report examines the age, educational, and workforce characteristics of immigrants, and finds that these immigrants are younger, more likely to be male, and more likely to be married with children than the U.S. born or other immigrant groups. While there is evidence that second-generation Mexican Americans also lag behind their counterparts from other countries, they have higher education levels and higher household incomes than their parents. Ultimately, these factors—in addition to this population’s rapid growth, large families, and high proportion of unauthorized immigrants—will shape the future of U.S. immigration policy debate.

Table of Contents 

I. Introduction

II. Increased U.S. Immigration from Mexico and Central America Since 1970

III. A Snapshot of Mexican and Central American Immigrants in the United States in 2010

A. Immigration Status

B. Family Structure

C. Education

D. Employment

E. Income

F. Geographic Distribution

IV. Conclusions: Mexican and Central American Immigrants and the U.S. Immigration Debate