Soaring Immigration

The current rate of immigration has jumped significantly over the historically high 1990s level, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates. Immigrants are estimated to be pouring into the country at a rate that increases the population by about 1.4 million each year.1

During the 1990s, the U.S. immigrant population experienced its largest increase ever - about 11.3 million people. As a result, the foreign-born share of the population jumped from 7.9 percent in 1990 to 11.1 percent in 2000. Yet Census Bureau estimates at the beginning of the new century indicate that the enormous increase of the 1990s will pale by comparison to the increase that will take place by the time we reach 2010. If immigration continues at its current rate for the rest of the decade, the immigrant population will have increased by another 14 million, reaching a total of 45 million residents, and it will constitute 14.2 percent of the population.

Immigration Increases in the States

A comparison of the annual average rate of immigrant settlement during the 1990s with the rate since 2000 reveals both the scope and the magnitude of the increasing wave of immigration into the United States. 2 It also shows how the new immigrants are spreading broadly across the country.

New immigrant settlement in the traditional major settlement states (New York, California, New Jersey, Florida, Texas, and Illinois) is running more than a quarter million immigrants higher each year than during the 1990s. However, a number of new states have the highest jumps in the rate of immigrant settlement. Since 2000, North Carolina, Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, Wisconsin, South Carolina, and Alabama are all receiving more than triple the rate of new immigrants than during the previous decade. An additional 19 states are now receiving more than double the rate of new immigrant settlement before 2000.

Every U.S. state has had a significant increase in immigrant settlement since the beginning of the 21st century, according to Census Bureau estimates.3 When compared to the average immigrant settlement during the 1990s, more than half of all states have had increases of more than 5,000 immigrants per year. For example, the Census Bureau estimated that immigrant settlement accounted for a yearly increase of about 6,500 residents in North Carolina during the 1990s. Since 2000, the yearly increase from immigration in North Carolina is estimated to be more than 29,300 residents. So the annual average number of immigrants settling in the state has jumped by nearly 23,000 newcomers-a more than tripling of the rate of immigrant settlement. North Carolina is one of 16 states where the increase in immigrant settlement has shot up by more than 10,000 residents per year.

States With More Than a 10,000 Increase in Annual Immigrant Settlement

The 16 states with the largest jumps in immigrant settlement since 2000 include the six traditional immigrant destinations, as well as ten other states that have become new primary destinations for immigrants (see Table 1 below). All of these states now must cope with from 23,000 to 335,000 new immigrants each year (except for Nevada, which, on a per capita basis, has an even higher rate of immigration impact than other states with larger numbers of new immigrants).

1. States with Greater than a 10,000 Increase in Immigration
State '90s Avg. '01-02 Avg. No. Incr. Pct. Incr.
1 N.C. 6,458 29,358 22,900 354.9%
2 Col. 7,264 22,889 15,625 215.1%
3 Ga. 11,760 36,491 24,731 210.3%
4 Ariz. 11,794 34,381 22,587 191.5%
5 Nev. 6,174 16,646 10,472 169.6%
6 Mich. 11,082 24,947 13,865 125.1%
7 Va. 16,193 30,446 14,253 88.0%
8 Tex. 79,491 147,936 68,445 86.1%
9 Mass. 16,426 28,977 12,551 76.4%
10 Wash. 16,314 28,737 12,423 76.1%
11 Md. 14,652 25,762 11,110 75.8%
12 Ill. 42,670 74,965 32,295 75.7%
13 Fla. 71,123 122,457 51,334 72.2%
14 N.J. 41,981 61,587 19,606 46.7%
15 Cal. 253,373 335,308 81,935 32.3%
16 N.Y. 123,090 152,759 29,669 24.1%

States With More Than a 5,000 Increase in Annual Immigrant Settlement

An additional eleven states had increases of over 5,000 immigrants per year when their pre- and post-2000 data were compared. Among these states, three of them more than tripled their annual average number of new immigrants (Indiana, Wisconsin, and Utah). Another six of these states had rates of increase that were more than double the rate during the 1990s. All of these states have been adding near to or more than 10,000 immigrants to their population each year since 2000 (see Table 2 below).

2. States with Greater than a 5,000 Increase in Immigration
State '90s Avg. '01-02 Avg. No. Incr. Pct. Incr.
1 Ind. 3,228 10,932 7,704 238.7%
2 Wis. 2,774 9,110 6,336 228.4%
3 Utah 3,371 10,528 7,157 212.3%
4 Tenn. 3,365 9,649 6,284 186.7%
5 Kan. 3,137 8,564 5,427 173.0%
6 Ohio 5,880 14,461 8,581 145.9%
7 Minn. 6,130 14,073 7,943 129.6%
8 Mo. 4,261 9,282 5,021 117.8%
9 Ore. 7,360 15,123 7,763 105.5%
10 Conn. 8,154 15,449 7,295 89.5%
11 Penn. 12,754 22,523 9,769 76.6%

States With More Than a 1,000 Increase in Annual Immigrant Settlement

While the above 27 states account for the primary immigrant destinations both prior to and since the turn of the century, an additional 14 states have had since 2000 jumps of more than 1,000 immigrants per year above the immigrant settlement rate of the 1990s. Two of these states (South Carolina and Alabama) have more than tripled the annual immigrant settlement, and another eight states have more than doubled the level of immigrant settlement. These states are ones that have not been destinations for sizable numbers of immigrants until recently, but the numbers below (in Table 3) show that this is changing.

3. States with More than a 1,000 Increase in Immigration
State '90s Avg. '01-02 Avg. No. Incr. Pct. Incr.
1 S.C. 2,063 6,897 4,834 234.3%
2 Ala. 1,575 4,821 3,246 206.1%
3 Miss. 765 2,223 1,458 190.6%
4 Ky. 1,763 5,119 3,356 190.4%
5 Neb. 1,682 4,729 3,047 181.2%
6 N.H. 777 1,996 1,219 156.9%
7 Iowa 2,350 5,846 3,496 148.8%
8 Okla. 3,182 7,637 4,455 140.0%
9 Del. 1,029 2,288 1,259 122.4%
10 R.I. 1,815 3,795 1,980 109.1%
11 Ark. 1,134 2,221 1,087 95.9%
12 Idaho 2,005 3,585 1,580 78.8%
13 La. 2,879 4,231 1,352 47.0%
14 N.M. 4,252 6,226 1,974 46.4%

States With Less Than a 1,000 Increase in Annual Immigrant Settlement

The final nine states and Washington, D.C. are, for the most part, locations that have not been traditional destinations for immigrants and have not yet become major destinations. The exceptions are Hawaii, where immigrant settlement is high, but has tended to level off in recent years, and Washington, D.C., where immigrant settlement numbers are low only because it is such a small jurisdiction; D.C. is, in fact, a major immigrant settlement area when the much greater metropolitan statistical area is considered. Despite the comparatively low numbers of new immigrants settling in these states, two of them have more than tripled their rate of immigrant settlement (South Carolina and Alabama), and all of these jurisdictions have had increases in immigrant settlement since the turn of the century (as shown in Table 4 below).

4. States with Less Than a 1,000 Increase in Immigration
State '90s Avg. '01-02 Avg. No. Incr. Pct. Incr.
1 Wyo. 224 505 281 125.4%
2 Maine 433 945 512 118.2%
3 W.V. 385 669 284 73.8%
4 Alaska 983 1,612 629 64.0%
5 Vt. 551 899 348 63.2%
6 Mont. 306 459 153 50.0%
7 S.D. 543 786 243 44.8%
8 D.C. 3,330 4,276 946 28.4%
9 N.D. 589 694 105 17.8%
10 Hawaii 6,025 6,503 478 7.9%

Projected 2010 Immigrant Share for the States

If the current trend in immigrant increase continues for the rest of this decade, the states with the highest rates of increase will all see major jumps in their immigrant populations and in the immigrant share of the population.4

The 15 states with the largest increases in immigrant settlement (Table 5 below) account for 11.5 million of the 13.9 million additional immigrants who the country will be required to accommodate if the current immigration pattern is unchanged. For a state like California, facing enormous fiscal problems caused, in part, by its enormous immigrant population, the prospect of absorbing an additional 3.4 million immigrants and the immigrant share rising from over one-quarter to nearer to one-third of the population is a troublesome prospect. A similar specter may be seen for New York, Texas, and Florida, which will each have to deal with more than an additional one million new immigrants during the decade if the current immigration pattern continues.

That gargantuan demographic change will batter state policymakers like never before. Gov. Schwarzenegger, for example, needs to immediately begin planning how his administration will deal with the prospect of more than one million additional immigrants settling in the state over the next three years. He should seriously consider policies to deter illegal immigrant settlement in the state - besides rescinding the unpopular bill giving driver's licenses to illegal immigrants. He should ask California's congressional delegation to actively support measures not only to reduce illegal immigration, but also to scale back legal immigration. But California is not alone in being confronted with massive new immigrant settlement, and it is irresponsible for the federal government not to be actively discharging its constitutional responsibility to regulate immigration so that it becomes less of a burden on the states.

5. 15
State 2000 Imm. 2010 Imm. State 2000 Pct. 2010 Pct.
1 Cal. 8,864.3 12,217.3 Cal. 26.2% 31.4%
2 N.Y. 3,868.1 5,395.7 N.Y. 20.4% 26.4%
3 Tex. 2,899.6 4,379.0 N.J. 17.5% 22.7%
4 Fla. 2,670.8 3,895.4 Hawaii 17.5% 20.8%
5 Ill. 1529.1 2,278.7 D.C. 12.9% 20.6%
6 N.J. 1,476.3 2,092.2 Fla. 16.7% 20.2%
7 Mass. 773 1,062.8 Tex. 13.9% 17.6%
8 Ariz. 656.2 1,000.0 Nev. 15.8% 17.6%
9 Ga. 577.3 942.2 Ill. 12.3% 16.8%
10 Wash. 614.5 901.8 Mass. 12.2% 15.7%
11 Va. 570.3 874.7 Ariz. 12.8% 15.2%
12 Md. 518.3 775.9 Conn. 10.9% 14.6%
13 Mich. 523.6 773.0 R.I. 11.4% 14.2%
14 N.C. 430.0 723.6 Md. 9.8% 13.2%
15 Col. 369.9 526.2 Wash. 10.4% 13.0%

[1] The 1.4 million per year increase is a net amount after accounting for deaths and out-migration. The Census Bureau estimates the current out-migration of immigrants at about 300,000 per year, which implies that the total number of new immigrants arriving is in excess of 1.78-1.8 million each year.

[2] The Census Bureau found in the 2000 Census data that it had underestimated magnitude of the increase in illegal immigrant settlement during the 1990s. This means that when the CPS estimate for 1990-99 is compared with CPS estimates for 2000-02 that the amount and rate of increase may be overstated in some cases. This is especially true for states other than the largest six settlement states. The other states were estimated to account for 20 percent of the illegal alien population in 1996 and 32 percent in 2000. This would not, however, account for more than about one million of 2.4 million increased immigrant settlement in these states.

[3] Data are taken from Census Bureau estimates from the Current Population Survey (CPS) for 1999 and 2002 and the annual average is calculated for 1990-99 and for 2000-02. The CPS estimates include all U.S. residents, whether legal or illegal.

  • The estimates are based on a continuation of the trend in native-born change during 1990-2000 and a continuation of the trend in immigrant settlement during 2000-2002.
  • November 2008