E.g., 09/25/2021
E.g., 09/25/2021
Profile of the Unauthorized Population - CA

Profile of the Unauthorized Population:

DemographicsEstimate% of Total
Unauthorized Population 2,625,000 100%
Top Countries of Birth
Mexico 1,681,000 64%
El Salvador 183,000 7%
Guatemala 138,000 5%
China/Hong Kong 110,000 4%
India 95,000 4%
Regions of Birth
Mexico and Central America 2,050,000 78%
Caribbean 3,000 0%
South America 53,000 2%
Europe/Canada/Oceania 106,000 4%
Asia 397,000 15%
Africa 15,000 1%
Years of U.S. Residence
Less than 5 410,000 16%
5 to 9 427,000 16%
10 to 14 620,000 24%
15 to 19 628,000 24%
20 or more 540,000 21%
Under 16 123,000 5%
16 to 24 379,000 14%
25 to 34 756,000 29%
35 to 44 742,000 28%
45 to 54 406,000 15%
55 and over 220,000 8%
Female 1,245,000 47%
FamilyEstimate% of Total
Parental Status
Population ages 15 and older 2,520,000 100%
Reside with at least one U.S.-citizen child under 18 901,000 36%
Reside with noncitizen children only under 18 175,000 7%
Reside with no children 1,444,000 57%
Marital Status
Population ages 15 and older 2,520,000 100%
Never married 1,008,000 40%
Married to a U.S. citizen 357,000 14%
Married to a legal permanent resident (LPR) 171,000 7%
Married to non-U.S. citizen/non-LPR 618,000 25%
Divorced, separated, widowed 366,000 15%
Education and LanguageEstimate% of Total
School Enrollment of Children and Youth
Population ages 3 to 17 158,000 100%
Enrolled 145,000 92%
Not enrolled 12,000 8%
Population ages 3 to 12 71,000 100%
Enrolled 63,000 89%
Not enrolled 8,000 11%
Population ages 13 to 17 87,000 100%
Enrolled 83,000 95%
Not enrolled 4,000 5%
Population ages 18 to 24 337,000 100%
Enrolled 153,000 45%
Not enrolled 184,000 55%
Educational Attainment of Adults
Population ages 25 and older 2,124,000 100%
0-5 grade 323,000 15%
6-8 grade 368,000 17%
9-12 grade 348,000 16%
High school diploma or equivalent 469,000 22%
Some college or associate’s degree 266,000 13%
Bachelor’s, graduate, or professional degree 350,000 16%
English Proficiency
Population ages 5 and older 2,610,000 100%
Speak only English 136,000 5%
Speak English "very well" 682,000 26%
Speak English "well" 580,000 22%
Speak English "not well"/"not at all" 1,212,000 46%
Top 5 Languages Spoken at Home
Population ages 5 and older 2,610,000 100%
Spanish 2,021,000 77%
English 136,000 5%
Chinese 110,000 4%
Tagalog 76,000 3%
Korean 36,000 1%
WorkforceEstimate% of Total
Labor Force Participation
Civilian population ages 16 and older 2,502,000 100%
Employed 1,598,000 64%
Unemployed 132,000 5%
Not in the labor force 771,000 31%
Top Industries of Employment
Civilian employed population ages 16 and older 1,598,000 100%
Accommodation and food services, arts, entertainment, and recreation 265,000 17%
Professional, scientific, management, administrative, and waste management services 231,000 14%
Construction 225,000 14%
Manufacturing 173,000 11%
Retail trade 138,000 9%
EconomicsEstimate% of Total
Family Income
Below 50% of the poverty level 291,000 11%
50-99% of the poverty level 378,000 14%
100-149% of the poverty level 478,000 18%
150-199% of the poverty level 371,000 14%
At or above 200% of the poverty level 1,107,000 42%
Access to Health Insurance
Uninsured 1,049,000 40%
Home Ownership*
Homeowner 604,000 23%


Source: These 2018 data result from Migration Policy Institute (MPI) analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data from the pooled 2014–18 American Community Survey (ACS) and the 2008 Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP), weighted to 2018 unauthorized immigrant population estimates provided by Jennifer Van Hook of The Pennsylvania State University.

Note: For U.S., state, and county estimates of the unauthorized population potentially eligible for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, click here.

Data-related notes
* “Homeowners” are unauthorized immigrants residing in homes that are owned, not rented.

+ Includes the following Colorado counties: Adams, Broomfield, Clear Creek, Douglas, Elbert, Gilpin, and Jefferson, as well as portions of Arapahoe, Boulder, and Weld counties.

++ NECTAs refer to New England City and Town Areas, geographic entities defined by the U.S. Census Bureau for use as alternatives to counties in the six-state New England region.

  1. Estimate for China includes Hong Kong but excludes Taiwan; estimate for Korea includes South Korea and North Korea.
  2. “School Enrollment of Children and Youth” refers to unauthorized immigrants who reported attending school or college at any time in the three months prior to the survey.
  3. For languages, “Chinese” includes Mandarin, Cantonese, and other Chinese languages; “English” includes English, Jamaican Creole, Krio, Pidgin Krio, and other English-based Creole languages; “French” includes French, Patois, and Cajun; “Pacific Island languages” includes Ilocano, Samoan, Hawaiian, Sebuano, Chamorro, Guamanian, Marshallese, Trukese, Tongan, and other Austronesian languages, but excludes Tagalog and Filipino, which are reported separately; “Portuguese” includes Portuguese and Cape Verdean Creole; “Sub-Saharan African” includes Swahili or other Bantu languages, Mande, Fulani, Kru, and other unspecified African languages; “Tagalog” includes Tagalog and Filipino.
  4.  For industries, “Other services” are miscellaneous services, not including the following services listed separately: (1) professional, scientific, management, administrative, and waste management services; (2) educational services; (3) health and social services; and (4) accommodation and food services, arts, entertainment, and recreation.
  5.  “-” estimates are zero, not applicable, or not displayed due to small sample size.
  6. Percentages may not add up to 100 due to rounding.

Methodology in Brief:

MPI’s method uses information from the SIPP to assign legal status to noncitizens in the ACS. In the SIPP, noncitizens report whether they currently have lawful permanent resident (LPR) status—i.e., a green card. Those without LPR status may be recent refugees, temporary visitors (e.g., international students or high-skilled H-1B workers), or unauthorized immigrants. Our method maps characteristics such as country of birth, year of U.S. entry, age, gender, and educational attainment between the two surveys, and those noncitizens in the ACS who have characteristics similar to those reporting LPR status in the SIPP are coded as LPRs in the ACS. The remaining noncitizens—who are similar in characteristics to those not reporting LPR status in the SIPP—are classified as either unauthorized or legal temporary migrants, depending on whether they meet the qualifications for H-1B and the other temporary visa classifications. Estimates of unauthorized immigrants are weighted to match control totals (benchmarks) for immigrants from a set of origin countries and world regions. These control totals are calculated by subtracting the number of legal immigrants from the total of all immigrants for each country and region that are captured in the ACS data. The number of legal immigrants is estimated by adding up all legal admissions from each country and region in every year—using Department of Homeland Security administrative data—and then reducing this number to account for deaths and emigration of legal immigrants. Finally, the unauthorized immigrant population estimates are adjusted upward slightly to account for the undercount of this population in the ACS.

MPI’s overall method was developed in consultation with James Bachmeier of Temple University and Jennifer Van Hook of The Pennsylvania State University, Population Research Institute. For more detail on the methods, see MPI, “MPI Methodology for Assigning Legal Status to Noncitizen Respondents in U.S. Census Bureau Survey Data.” The control totals were developed by Jennifer Van Hook. These estimates have the same sampling and coverage errors as any other survey-based estimates that rely on ACS and other Census Bureau data.