Foreign born in USA: 1 in 5

It’s not often I can blend two of my favorite things: Information from the Census Bureau and rants about why local news organizations need to start looking at the global connections to local stories and local connections to international stories.

The Census Bureau just released a new report on foreign-born in the United States.

This report DOES NOT reflect the legal status of this group. The questioners can ask if the respondent is a citizen or not, but not how that person entered the States. (Yep, it’s the law.)

So besides all those Korean restaurants in Annandale, Va., or the stores featuring halal food in Dearborn, Mich., what does this all mean? Basically it means that there is a large audience that would like to know what is going on in other parts of the world. And if those events can be “localized,” all the better.

Is it really that hard for a newspaper or television news operation to pay serious attention to their local immigrant communities? And is it really that hard to find out how events in Jordan affect immigrants in the Detroit area? Or how about Somalians in Minnesota? (Well, thanks to radical groups accused of recruiting in the Twin Cities, the local media have been doing this. But the emphasis is on the recruitment. How about some other issues?)

Using the data from the FREE Census Bureau any local reporter can get data about immigrant groups in his/her area. As you can see below, the data is not just how many of what group live in a geographic area, but also income, education, family size, etc.

All this data has implications for local political and business leaders.

And any curious person might want to know why so many of a particular immigrant ended up in one area? Economics? Education? Politics? Make a few calls and find out.

And for all the bean counters who say “Local. Local. Local” is the only way to go, think of all the new readers/viewers/listeners you can have if your news organization starts paying attention to your local immigrant communities.

Here is the full Census report. To refine your search for data is easy. The Census Bureau site is easy to use.

Nation’s Foreign-Born Population Nears 37 Million

More Than One in Five People in the U.S. are First or Second Generation

The U.S. Census Bureau reports that 36.7 million of the nation’s population (12 percent) were foreign-born, and another 33 million (11 percent) were native-born with at least one foreign-born parent in 2009, making one in five people either first or second generation U.S. residents.

The second generation were more likely than the foreign born to be better educated and have higher earnings and less likely to be in poverty.

In 2009, 59 percent of the native-born 25 and older with at least one foreign-born parent had some college education and 33 percent had a bachelor’s degree. That compares with 45 percent of the foreign-born who had some college and 29 percent who had a bachelor’s degree.

“What these data show is that, generally speaking, income and other measures of achievement, such as education, increase between first and second generation,” said Elizabeth M. Grieco, chief of the Census Bureau’s Foreign-Born Population Branch. “This suggests that the children of immigrants are continuing to assimiliate over time as they have in past generations.”

Additionally, second generation Americans were less likely than the foreign born to have less than a high school degree; 12 percent of the second generation had less than a high school degree compared with 31 percent of the foreign-born population.

These findings are from the Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplement’s Foreign-Born Population of the United States: 2009, which provides a range of social and economic characteristics for the foreign-born population. This is the only Census Bureau data source that provides profiles of the foreign-born by generation.

Of those 15 years and older who worked full time and year-round, the second generation had higher median earnings ($42,297) in 2008 than the foreign-born population ($32,631). Likewise, the second generation tended to have overall higher earnings; 42 percent of the second generation earned $50,000 or more, compared with 31 percent of the first generation.

The second generation was also slightly less likely to be in poverty (16 percent) than the first generation (18 percent).

The foreign-born population represented 11 percent of the total popultion in 2000 and 12 percent in 2009, according to the Current Population Survey.

Among the foreign-born:

  • More than half were born in Latin America, and almost one-third were born in Mexico.
  • Nearly one in three entered the country in 2000 or later.
  • More than half were noncitizens (58 percent).
  • More were likely to be employed full time (75 percent) than the second-generation (69 percent).
  • The data from these tables are broken down by nativity, citizenship, year of entry, world region of birth and generation. The data represent the civilian noninstitutionalized population.


These data are from the Current Population Survey (CPS) from 2009.

Statistics from surveys are subject to sampling and nonsampling error. For more information on the source of the data and accuracy of the estimates, including standard errors and confidence intervals, see Appendix G.

The data can be accessed at


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Filed under Connections, International News Coverage, Story Ideas

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