STEPHEN YALE-LOEHR: Facts and figures about immigration. The table here illustrates that after growing in the early part of the century, the immigrant population stabilized around 10 or 11 million people for about four decades to the mid 1960s. Then it started to grow. In the 1990s, we had 800,000 people a year immigrating to the United States. Between 1970 and 1980, the number of immigrants living in the United States grew by 4.5 million. That seems like a lot, but it grew by 8.6 million in the 1990s. The foreign-born population growth rate grew during the 1970s and 1980s faster than at any other time in the history, far surpassing growth at the beginning of the 20th century.
Between 1900 and 1910, the immigrant population grew by 31%, less than the 47% increase in the 1970s, the 40% increase in the 1980s, and the 43% increase growth of the 1990s. Additionally, immigrants now account for a larger share of the increase of the total US population than before. For most of the last century, the growth of the immigrant population accounted for only a small increase in the total increase in the size of the US population.
Even during the first decades of the 1900s when immigration was an important part of population growth, the immigrant contribution to the United States' population growth was much less than it was now. Part of the difference in terms of the growth rate of immigration is because of the native-born population growth rate in the early 1900s. Native borns had more kids back then, and so immigration didn't account for as much of the population increase as before. By contrast, now US natives typically only have about two children per parent, and so immigration counts for a larger percentage of the growth rate in the United States.
While the absolute number of immigrants and the growth rate of immigration is higher now than before, the percentage of immigration as a population is really not that much higher. The table here shows that in 1910, immigrants are constituted almost 15% of the total US population during that decade. In 2000, even though we had more immigration, absolutely, to the United States, overall, immigrants account for about 10% of the total US population.
The geographic concentration of immigrants is not spread uniformly throughout the United States. The table here shows that most immigrants settle in just six states of the United States. California clearly has the largest immigrant population-- 8.8 million themselves. New York, the state with the second-largest number of immigrants, has less than half that number-- only 3.6 million. The table also shows that over 70% of new immigrants concentrate in just six states in the United States. The figures here will give you more details if you want to look at them.
This table lists the top 20 immigrant-sending countries by the number of immigrants living in them between 1970 and March of 2000. Unsurprisingly, Mexico is the largest sender of immigrants to the United States. It alone accounts for 7.8 million immigrants in the last 10 years, more than five times as many immigrants as combined from China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. As is clear from the table, Latin American, Caribbean, and East Asian countries dominate the list of immigrant-sending countries, accounting for 14 of the top 20 immigrant-sending countries to the United States.
These statistics show that immigration to the United States is an important and growing phenomenon that impacts the United States in many ways, socially, economically, and politically.
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Immigration is a key controversy in the United States:
Does immigration help or hurt the U.S. economy?
Do immigrants take jobs from U.S. native born workers or create new jobs?
Should we restrict immigration or allow more people to immigrate?
What should we do about the estimated 8-9 million undocumented noncitizens now living in the United States?
This CyberTower room will familiarize you with the key historical, policy and legal issues to allow you to engage intelligently in this debate.
The stakes involved are high and often presented as mutually exclusive entities; jobs for natives vs. non-natives; the value of cultural diversity vs. the pressure for assimilation; the debate over whether immigration helps or hurts the United States.
This video is part 3 of 6 in the Us versus Them series.