According to the latest census estimates, more immigrants live in the United States than in any other country - over 45 million people. This is 13,6% of the US population - about the same as a hundred years ago. But over the years, we've seen significant shifts in where immigrants come to the US from and where they end up once they're here. Edition CNN shared key immigration trends and how they have changed over time.
For decades, one country has topped the list
Mexicans represent the largest group of immigrants living in the US. According to the Migration Policy Institute, they have been in the lead since 1980. And the Mexico-US route is the largest migration corridor in the world.
But the total number of Mexican immigrants living in the US has been declining for more than a decade.
An estimated 2021 million Mexican immigrants lived in the US in 10,7, about 1 million fewer than a decade earlier.
Meanwhile, immigration from other countries, including India and China, is on the rise.
The range of reasons why people move to the US from different parts of the world is as varied as the list of countries these immigrants once called home. Some are looking for economic opportunities, others are fleeing violence, persecution or climate disasters. And still others hope to be reunited with family members who are already here.
On the subject: How our immigrants become rich in the USA: three stories
According to an analysis of MPI census data, the top 10 countries of origin for immigrants in the United States are all in Latin America and Asia.
Top countries of origin include:
- Mexico - 10,7 million
- India - 2,71 million
- China - 2,38 million
- Philippines - 1,98 million
- El Salvador - 1,42 million
- Vietnam - 1,34 million
- Cuba - 1,28 million
- Dominican Republic - 1,26 million
- Guatemala - 1,11 million
- Korea - 1,01 million
These statistics include both immigrants who came to the US legally and those who live in the country without permission.
Looking only at the number of illegal immigrants living in the United States, the list of top countries of origin changes slightly. According to a 2021 Department of Homeland Security report, the top six countries of origin for illegal immigrants were Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, India, Honduras, and China.
But most of the immigrants living in the United States are here legally.
According to the latest Pew Research Center estimates, there are about 10,5 million illegal immigrants in the United States. This means that the vast majority of people of foreign origin living in the United States (77%) are here legally.
In the 1960s there was a different picture
Mexico has not always topped the list. For example, in 1960 the profile of immigrants in the US was very different.
At that time, according to the Institute for Migration Policy, the largest group of immigrants were Italians, followed by Germans and Canadians.
In 1960, immigrants from Europe made up the vast majority of the foreign-born population. Now most of the immigrants living in the US were born in America or Asia.
The composition of the US immigrant population in various years:
- 1960 - 75% (Europe) / 5% (Asia) / 0% (Africa) / 0% (Oceania) / 19% (Americas) / 1% (Not reported)
- 1970 - 60% (Europe) / 9% (Asia) / 1% (Africa) / 0% (Oceania) / 27% (Americas) / 3% (Not reported)
- 1980 - 37% (Europe) / 18% (Asia) / 1% (Africa) / 1% (Oceania) / 37% (Americas) / 6% (Not reported)
- 1990 - 22% (Europe) / 25% (Asia) / 2% (Africa) / 1% (Oceania) / 46% (Americas) / 4% (Not reported)
- 2000 - 16% (Europe) / 26% (Asia) / 3% (Africa) / 1% (Oceania) / 54% (Americas)
- 2010 - 12% (Europe) / 28% (Asia) / 4% (Africa) / 1% (Oceania) / 55% (Americas)
- 2021 - 11% (Europe) / 31% (Asia) / 6% (Africa) / 1% (Oceania) / 52% (Americas)
Why has everything changed so much? For decades, the nation's initial quota system, adopted by Congress in 1924, favored migrants from Northern and Western Europe and excluded Asians. In 1965, the Immigration and Nationality Act created a new system that prioritized highly skilled immigrants and those who already had family living in the country. This paved the way for millions of non-European immigrants to come to the United States.
“It has fundamentally changed the demographics of the country,” Pawan Dhingra, a professor of American studies at Amherst College, said in 2020.
For decades, the number of immigrants in the United States has been declining. But the new law triggered a sharp increase in immigration in the following decades, fueled largely by family reunification.
According to the Migration Policy Institute, in 1965 the 9,6 million immigrants living in the US made up just 5% of the population. Now more than 45 million immigrants make up almost 14% of the country's population.
Although the total number of immigrants reached an all-time high, immigrants made up the majority of the US population in the late XNUMXth and early XNUMXth centuries.
Here is how the share of immigrants among the US population has changed:
- 1850 - 9,7%
- 1860 - 13,2%
- 1870 - 14,4%
- 1880 - 13,3%
- 1890 - 14,8%
- 1900 - 13,6%
- 1910 - 14,7%
- 1920 - 13,2%
- 1930 - 11,6%
- 1940 - 8,8%
- 1950 - 6,9%
- 1960 - 5,4%
- 1970 - 4,7%
- 1980 - 6,2%
- 1990 - 7,9%
- 2000 - 11,1%
- 2010 - 12,9%
- 2011 - 12%
- 2012 - 13%
- 2013 - 13,1%
- 2014 - 13,3%
- 2015 - 13,5%
- 2016 - 13,5%
- 2017 - 13,7%
- 2018 - 13,7%
- 2019 - 13,7%
- 2021 - 13,6%
Most states are seeing a rise in immigrant populations
The composition of those who come to the United States is not the only thing that has changed. There have also been notable shifts in where these immigrants end up.
Incoming immigrants often settled in historic immigrant gates in major metropolitan areas such as New York, Chicago, and Boston. But in more than a decade, a much wider range of places in the United States have become gateways that serve as home to a growing immigrant population.
Today, California, Texas, Florida, New York and New Jersey are home to the largest number of immigrants.
But if you look at the total number of immigrants in each state, that's only part of the story. Some states have a larger number of immigrants compared to their total population. For example, in Hawaii, immigrants make up nearly 19% of the state's population.
The largest indicators of the number of immigrants living there are in the states: California, Florida, New York and New Jersey. Here, more than 20% of the state's population are immigrants.
And the least immigrants (less than 5% of the population) live in Maine, Vermont, Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, North Dakota, Montana, Wyoming and South Dakota.
A recent study by the Bush Institute found that many immigrants end up moving from traditional cities to other parts of the country.
“Immigrants making secondary moves to the United States disproportionately choose the same places as natives — metropolitan areas with relatively affordable housing and growth-friendly business and tax policies,” the study says. “Once there, they gravitate toward fast-growing suburban areas.”
For many years, most immigrants lived in the Northeast and Midwest. But now, according to the latest Pew Research Center analysis, about two-thirds of the immigrants have settled in the West and South.
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In recent years, the immigrant population has grown at a faster rate in some states.
The largest increase in immigrants was observed in North Dakota - 103%.
While in Vermont and New Mexico, an outflow was recorded - less by 1,3% and 6,1%, respectively.
As the Bush Institute study notes, employment opportunities, affordable housing, family ties, and immigrant-friendly policies are factors that immigrants consider when deciding where to move to.
According to experts, if current trends continue, in the coming years we may see immigrants make up a historically high proportion of the US population.
But with geopolitical turmoil around the world and ongoing controversy over immigration in Washington, it's hard to predict where future immigrant groups might come from or how quickly this milestone will be reached.