Profile of the Unauthorized Population - US
Source: Migration Policy Institute (MPI) analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data from the 2014-18 American Community Survey (ACS) pooled, and the 2008 Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP), drawing on a methodology developed in consultation with James Bachmeier of Temple University and Jennifer Van Hook of The Pennsylvania State University, Population Research Institute.
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.
* “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.
- Estimate for China includes Hong Kong but excludes Taiwan; estimate for Korea includes South Korea and North Korea.
- “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.
- 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.
- 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.
- “-” estimates are zero, not applicable, or not displayed due to small sample size.
- 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.