Thanks to a two-decade surge in immigration, a greater share of the U.S. population is foreign-born than at any time in the past century, according to a new report.
Last year, 13.5 percent — about one in eight– of U.S. residents were immigrants, the highest percentage in 106 years. In absolute terms, the U.S. was home to about 44 million immigrants, the most in the country’s history.
A huge slice of the immigrant population has arrived over the last 16 years, according to a report from Steve Camarota and Karen Zeigler of the Center for Immigration Studies. The immigrant population has grown by 12.6 million since 2000 — an increase of about 40 percent.
To arrive at this figure for the foreign-born population, Camarota and Zeigler pulled recently released data from the Census Bureau’s 2016 American Community Survey (ACS). This survey is the U.S. government’s largest survey taken each year and includes over two million households. The ACS data for the immigrant population includes naturalized citizens, legal permanent residents, temporary workers and foreign students, and illegal immigrants.
The report raises questions about the U.S.’s ability to continue absorbing large numbers of immigrants at a time of stagnating wages and historically low labor force participation of prime working-age adults, Camarota explains.
“The enormous number of immigrants already in the country coupled with the settlement of well over a million newcomers each year has a profound impact on American society, including on workers, schools, infrastructure, hospitals and the environment,” he told the Washington Examiner. “The nation needs a serious debate about whether continuing this level of immigration makes sense.”
The CIS report broke down the immigrant population by country of origin and state of residence and notes the number of Mexican-born immigrants has not grown over the last six years due to out-migration and natural mortality.
Migration from East and South Asian countries has resulted in the recent growth in the immigrant population. From 2010 to 2016, the population of immigrants from those countries grew by a combined 1.8 million. Other regions with large numerical increases over the same period include the Caribbean up approximately 550,000 people, the Middle East up 471,000 and Sub-Saharan Africa up 457,000.
If current migration levels hold steady, the foreign-born population will continue to grow and easily surpass the record totals reached in 2016. Census Bureau projections put the immigrant share of the overall U.S. population at 15.8 percent by 2030 and 18.8 percent — or nearly one in five U.S. residents — by 2060.
Read the full report here.
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