Immigration Facts
Summary Demographic State Data (and Source)
Population (2012 CB est.) 12,763,536
Population (2000 CB est.) 12,281,054
Foreign-Born Population (2012 CB est.) 972,711
Foreign-Born Population (2000 CB est.) 508,291
Share Foreign-Born (2012) 7.6 %
Share Foreign-Born (2000) 4%
Naturalized U.S. Citizens (2012 CB est.): 398,495
Share Naturalized (2012) 41.0 %
Legal Immigrant Admission (DHS 2001 – 2012) 223,342
Refugee Admission (HHS 2000 – 2012) 38,418
Illegal Alien Population (2010 FAIR est.) 180,000
Costs of Illegal Aliens (2009 FAIR) $1,377,867,908
Projected 2050 Population (2006 FAIR) 13,902,000

State Population

According to the Census Bureau, the population of Pennsylvania in 2012 was 12,763,536 residents.

Between 2000 (population 12,281,054) and 2012, the state's average annual population change was 39,386 residents. That was an annual average change of 0.3 percent. The comparable national annual rate of change was 0.9 percent.

Between 1990 (population 11,881,643) and 2000, the state's annual average population change was 39,941 residents. The annual average rate of change was 0.3 percent compared to the national rate of change of 1.2 percent.

Foreign-Born Population

According to the Census Bureau the foreign-born population of Pennsylvania was about 972,711 persons in 2012. This estimate meant a foreign-born population share of 7.6 percent. The chart above shows the long-term change in the state's foreign-born population based on Census Bureau data.

Foreign-Born Change

Between 2000 and 2012 the Census Bureau estimate indicates an average annual rate of change in the foreign-born population of about 37,912 people, compared to the state's annual average population change of about 39,386  people. That is a 96.3  percent share of the state's population change (not including the children born in the United States to illegal aliens). The foreign-born population grew by 91.4 percent between 2000 and 2012.

Immigration also contributes to population growth through the U.S.-born children of immigrants. Nationally the share of births to the foreign-born is about double their share of the population. A 15.2 percent share of the state's current births is large enough to account for about 21,800 births a year. Combining the average increase in the foreign-born population and estimated immigrant births suggests that immigration may account for about 59,715 persons added to the state's population annually, i.e., nearly 151.6 percent of the state's overall population increase.

As of 2012 about 38.5 percent of Pennsylvania's foreign-born population had arrived in the state since 2000. This compares with the national average 40.9 percent. In 2000, 41.1 percent of the state's foreign-born population that had arrived since the previous Census.

Foreign-Born Characteristics

An indicator of the change in Pennsylvania's immigrant population may be seen in data on the share of the population over five years of age that speaks a language other than English at home. Between 2000 and 2012, the share of non-English speakers changed from 8.4 percent to 10.6 percent. In 2000, 37.9 percent of those persons in also said they spoke English less than very well. In the 2012 estimate, the share was 38.4 percent that spoke English less than very well. In 2012 Spanish speakers were 43.0 percent of those who spoke other than English at home, and 44.0 percent of those who spoke English less than very well.

The chart above shows the regional composition of the state's foreign-born population and how it has changed from between 2000 and 2012.


Census Bureau data in 2012 indicate that 398,495 residents of Pennsylvania, or 41.0 percent of the foreign-born population in Pennsylvania, were naturalized U.S. citizens, compared to 257,339 residents, or 50.6 percent, in 2000.

Nationally, 40.3 percent of the foreign-born population was naturalized in 2000, and 45.8 percent in 2012.

Net International Migration (NIM)

Data from the Current Population Survey (CPS), the Census Bureau estimated that between 2000 and 2012, the change in Pennsylvania's population resulting from net international migration has been about 43,290 people. It was 69.6 percent of total change (not including the children born to the immigrants after their arrival in the United States). 1   The remainder was due to net domestic migration and natural change (births minus deaths).


  1. A negative percentage results when there was an overall population decrease. A percentage greater than 100 percent results when domestic migration is negative, i.e, a net loss from interstate migration.

Immigrant Admissions

Recent "green card" recipients who intend to reside in Pennsylvania were 163 percent above admissions just after adoption of the current immigration system in 1965. During the 1965 to 1969 period, annual admissions averaged about 9,302 persons. During the most recent five years, annual admissions averaged about 24,462 persons. Immigrant admissions data are from the Yearbook of Immigration Statistics.

The chart above shows recent immigrant admissions and the cumulative amount of immigrant admissions since FY'65. The cumulative total of immigrant admissions to Pennsylvania between fiscal years 1965 and 2012 has been 717,298 persons.

The data for fiscal years 1989-91 were artificially raised by the inclusion of former illegal aliens who were amnestied in 1986. According to INS data (1991) the number of amnesty applicants from Pennsylvania was 9,054 (2,916 pre-1982 residents and 6,138 agricultural workers). These data were published by the Immigration and Naturalization Service and reported in "Report on the Legalized Alien Population," March 1992.

Admissions by Nationality: FY'96 - FY'05

The table below furnishes INS data by nationality on the immigrants who were admitted for residence in Pennsylvania between 1996 and 2005.

The INS data are for nationals of the countries with the largest number of immigrants admitted or adjusted to legal residence each year since 1996. The absence of data means that the total number of admissions to the United States by nationals of that country was not enough to merit detailed reporting in that year.

The Department of Homeland Security website has detailed data on immigrant admissions since FY'03 by year and by source country and intended state of residence. (See then select the desired year, click Legal Permanent Residents, data and then select "supplemental table 1."

Chart of Immigrant Admission by Fiscal Year


Pennsylvania has received 38,418 refugees over the most recent ten fiscal years including 2,809 refugees in fiscal year 2012. The chart above shows the annual admissions over the last ten years and the cumulative total of those admissions using data complied by the Office of Refugee Resettlement in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The U.S. government program that distributes new refugees among the states is the only immigration program that provides state governments the opportunity to participate in deciding how many newcomers will come to that state each year.

Illegal Aliens

Pennsylvania Fiscal Costs
Due to Illegal Aliens
           ($M) (Pct.)
K-12 educ. $450.50 32.7%
LEP educ. $125.40 9.1%
Medicaid+ $78.10 5.7%
SCHIP $33.00 2.4%
Justice $74.30 5.4%
Welfare+ $221.00 16.0%
General $395.60 28.7%
Total $1,377.90  
Tax receipts $49.00  
Net Cost $1,328.90  
Source: "The State Cost Studies"

FAIR Estimate - FAIR estimates the illegal alien population of Pennsylvania as of 2010 was about 180,000 persons. This is part of an overall estimate of the U.S. illegal alien population of about 11,900,000 persons.

DHS Estimate - The current estimate by DHS of the illegal alien population in Pennsylvania was n/a in 2012. The DHS estimate is available for only the 10 states with the largest illegal alien populations. The DHS estimate of the national illegal alien population in 2012 was 11,430,000.

Other Estimates - The Pew Hispanic Center estimates the illegal alien population of the state at 160,000 as of 2010.

Fiscal Cost of Illegal Aliens

FAIR's most recent estimate of the cost outlays due to illegal immigration and tax receipts from illegal aliens in Pennsylvania are as shown on the right:

Limited English Proficiency Students

Data are not available nationally on immigrant students (either legally or illegally resident in the United States) who are enrolled in primary and secondary schools (K-12). However, a large majority of these students enrolled in Limited English Proficiency/English Language Learning (LEP/ELL) instruction programs may be assumed to be children of either legal or illegal immigrants with a predominance of children of illegal aliens.

In Pennsylvania, LEP public school enrollment in 2010 ( 50,738) was 177.8 percent of LEP enrollment a decade earlier. By contrast, overall K-12 enrollment in the state was 98.3 percent of enrollment a decade earlier.

Population Projection

FAIR projected Pennsylvania's population in 2050 likely would be between 13,629,000 million and 13,902,000 million with current levels of immigration. Alternatively, the population could be lower (12,442,000) if immigration were reduced to a level where it balanced the number of U.S. residents leaving to reside outside of the United states, i.e., zero-net immigration. See "Projecting the U.S. Population to 2050: Four Immigration Scenarios," FAIR 2006.

Foreign Students

Data compiled by the Institute of International Education (IIE) record the number of foreign students attending post-secondary school in Pennsylvania as 37,280 in 2013.

The chart above illustrates the change in the number of foreign students attending school in Pennsylvania since 1997.

For information on foreign student issues see: Foreign Students in the United States.

Immigration Impact

Sanctuary Policies

City or County


Executive Order No. 8-09 (November 10, 2009)

  • “All City services…shall be made available to all City of Philadelphia residents…regardless of the person’s citizenship or legal immigration status….”
  • “No City officer or employee, other than law enforcement officers, shall inquire about a person’s immigrations status unless: (1) documentation of such person’s immigration status is legally required for the determination of program, service or benefit eligibility or the provision of services; or (2) such officer or employee is required by law to inquire about such person’s immigration status.”
  • “Law enforcement officers shall not: (1) stop, question, arrest or detain an individual solely because of the individual’s ethnicity, national origin, or perceived immigration status; (2) inquire about a person’s immigration status, unless the status itself is a necessary predicate of a crime the officer is investigating or unless the status is relevant to identification of a person who is suspected of committing a crime; (3) inquire about the immigration status of crime victims, witnesses, or others who call or approach the police seeking help; or (4) inquire regarding immigration status for the purpose of enforcing immigration laws.”

Philadelphia Police Department Memorandum 01-06: Departmental Policy Regarding Immigrants (May 17, 2001)

  • “The Police Department will preserve the confidentiality of all information regarding law abiding immigrants seeking city services to the maximum extent permitted by law.”
  • “… police personnel will transmit information about immigration status to federal immigration authorities only when: (1) required by law, or (2) the immigrant requests, in writing, information be provided, to verify his or her immigration status, or (3) the immigrant is suspected of engaging in criminal activity, including attempts to obtain public assistance benefits through the use of fraudulent documents.”

Resolution No. 020394 (May 30, 2002)

  • “…the Council of the City of Philadelphia, vigorously opposes a new federal policy which would provide state and local law enforcement agencies with the legal authority to arrest and detain persons for violations of federal immigration laws….”
  • “…the Council of the City of Philadelphia, calls upon Mayor Street to adopt an Executive Order prohibiting all City departments and agencies, including the Philadelphia Police Department, from requesting information about or otherwise investigating or assisting the investigation of the citizenship or residency status of any person unless such inquiry or investigation is required by statute, ordinance, federal regulation or court decision.”

Resolution (May 29, 2003)

  • Reaffirms Resolution No. 020394, “…which vigorously opposes federal policy giving local and state law enforcement agencies the authority to investigate the citizenship and residency status of any person, unless required by court decision, or statute….”
  • Commends Police Directive Memorandum 01-06 requiring all police personnel to “preserve the confidentiality of all information regarding law abiding immigrants to the maximum extent permitted by law.”

City of Philadelphia Law Department Memorandum (October 10, 2003)

  • “…all City officers and employees should be reminded that no person shall be denied any City services or benefits by reason of his or her immigration status.”
  • “A City officer or employee, other than law enforcement officers, shall not inquire about a person’s immigration status unless such a person’s immigration status is necessary for the determination of program, service or benefit eligibility.”
  • “Law enforcement officers shall not inquire about a person’s immigration status unless investigating illegal activity other than mere status as an undocumented alien.”
  • “It is the policy of the Police Department not to inquire about the immigration status of crime victims, witnesses, others who call or approach the police seeking help.”


Proclamation No. 2004-0295 (April 26, 2004)

  • “The Council of the City of Pittsburgh…AFFIRMS its strong support for the rights of immigrants and opposes measures that single out individuals for legal scrutiny or enforcement activity based on their country of origin.”
  • “The Council of the City of Pittsburgh REQUESTS the Mayor to direct the Police Department of the City of Pittsburgh to: refrain from participating in the enforcement of federal immigration laws which are solely the responsibility of the federal government....”

Environmental and Quality of Life Profile

In Lancaster County, where population increased by 11 percent in the 1990s (with the foreign-born population jumping by 67 percent), 35 percent of residents say that traffic congestion and inadequate roads are the least appealing aspects of the county; 28 percent said overdevelopment is the worst part of life in the county. 31 percent said quality of life in the county has declined in the last five years.1

Crowded Housing: An estimated 55,565 of Pennsylvania's housing units were classified as crowded in 2008, defined as units with more than one occupant per room. This amounted to 1.1 percent of the state's housing units. In addition, 14,686 were severely crowded, with at least 1.5 occupants per room.2 Nationwide, children in immigrant families were three times as likely to live in crowded conditions as children in native families (27 percent to 9 percent). In Pennsylvania, 11 percent of children in immigrant families live in crowded housing, compared to just 5 percent of children with native-born parents.3

The Lancaster metro area has the second-highest rate of crowded housing in Pennsylvania.4

Water: Pennsylvania has a per-capita, water usage of 118.9 gallons per day.5 This means that by 2050, human demand for water could increase by up to 173.8 million gallons per day. In addition to creating a demand for water that will ultimately be unsustainable, population driven urban sprawl in Pennsylvania has led to increases in water pollution, exacerbating the problem. For example, Philadelphia, which draws its drinking water from the Delaware and Schuylkill Rivers, has seen an alarming number of chemicals in the water supply. Tests have revealed 17 different drugs or byproducts in the drinking system and 32 in the watershed, the highest test numbers of any metropolitan area reported by the Associated Press.6

Although concentrations are very low, and measured in parts per trillion, these contaminants certainly pose risks to human wellbeing and the environment. Robert Wendelgass, deputy national director of Clean Water Action, testified that even infinitesimal doses of these chemicals could be harmful to public health. "Common sense," he said "suggests it is not a good idea to drink other people's medicine."7

Urban sprawl in Pittsburgh also poses problems for the city's water supply. The water system is so strained that significant sewage leaks pollute the rivers between 80-90 times per year. It will cost an estimated $8 billion to repair over the next 10 years, which will likely drive up the cost of water.

Additionally, estrogen mimicking chemicals, entering the rivers through the sewage leaks, have been detected in high levels in the area fish. These chemicals come from pesticides, cosmetics, cleaners, and various pharmaceutical drugs. In addition to the public health risk, these chemicals are clearly harming the environment. It was difficult to identify the gender of 85 percent of the channel catfish caught on the Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio rivers near the largest point of sewage leakage. When tested in a lab, the extracted chemicals caused significant growth in breast cancer cells.8

Traffic: Pennsylvania highways endured a 26 percent increase in traffic between 1990 and 2008. Over one-third (34%) of the state's highways are considered congested.9  As population growth put more traffic on the roads, the average commute for Pennsylvania residents increased from 22 minutes in 1990 to 25.1 minutes in 2005.10 About 15 percent of Pennsylvania commuters had a commute of 45 minutes or longer in 2008.11

Each Philadelphia commuter lost an estimated 38 hours and 24 gallons of fuel in 2007 due to the effects of traffic congestion. The time and fuel wasted by those commuters was valued at $2.3 billion. In Pittsburgh, commuters lost 15 hours each due to congestion-related delays. Traffic was worse in the Allentown-Bethlehem area, where commuters wasted 26 hours and 17 gallons of gas.12  At a given moment, freeways in the state were more than four times as likely to be congested in 1999 as they were in 1982.13

The state's road conditions have not kept up with increasing demand. More than three in seven (43%) of Pennsylvania's major roads are in poor or mediocre condition, and 44 percent of bridges are either structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. Drivers pay the cost of overdue road repairs the typical Pennsylvania commuter spends $341 on additional maintenance and operational costs each year due to road conditions.14

Disappearing open space: The amount of developed land in Pennsylvania increased by 1,596,900 acres from 1982 to 2007, growing at a pace of 44,890 acres per year over the last ten years of that period.15

In an effort to save farmland, Lancaster County implemented a growth management plan in 1993, limiting new development to urban growth boundaries. But many areas have developed far faster than expected, and the 2002 Lancaster County Growth Tracking Report found that 60 percent of the more than 10,000 acres developed since the plan's implementation have been outside of the boundaries, on farmlands and in woods.16

Because of habitat loss and pollution, more than 150 animals and plants have been lost from the state, and more than 800 are classified as rare, threatened or endangered, according to the Pennsylvania Biodiversity Partnership.17

A study of urban sprawl between 1970 and 1990 that calculated the impact of population increase and per capita land use found that 412.4 square miles of additional land were consumed by urban sprawl in the Philadelphia metropolitan area, and 11.2 percent of that sprawl was attributable to population increase.18 Pennsylvania was ranked 6th in the U.S. for losing prime farmland acreage.19

Air Pollution: As population increases, pollution usually rises along with it. Three of the 20 U.S. cities and counties with the most ozone air pollution are in Pennsylvania: Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Lancaster.20 Pennsylvania has the third highest number of smog days in the nation.21 Of the 33 state counties included in the American Lung Association's 2010 assessment, 26 were rated an "F" for risk of ozone exposure, and only one earned a grade higher than "C."22

Poverty: Pennsylvania's immigrants are more likely to be poor than their native-born counterparts. In 2007, 9.0 percent of foreign-born households were below the poverty line, compared to 8.2 percent of native households. An additional 6.6 percent of the foreign-born and 5.3 percent of native households were not in poverty but had incomes less than 1.5 times the poverty level.23 18.7 percent of children in immigrant families were poor in 2006, compared to 15.9 percent of native children.24

Schools: Between 2000 and 2006 Pennsylvania's K-12 student enrollment increased by almost 14,000 students.25 Pennsylvania's student-teacher ratio of 15 ranks 28th in the U.S.26

In Pittsburgh's South Fayette school district, a population increase of more than 40 percent in the 1990s has crowded classrooms, forced students into trailers, and required millions of dollars to be spent on new school construction.27 Two years after building a $34 million, 230,000-square-foot-campus, Hellertown's Saucon Valley School District began running out of space again. Class sizes have ballooned and some classes are held in closet-sized rooms.28 In Lancaster County's Conestoga Valley School District, overcrowding has forced several hundred students to be reassigned to new schools.29 Some Pittsburgh elementary schools have more than 30 or more students per class (ideal size is considered 18).30

Solid Waste: Pennsylvania generates 1.03 tons of solid waste per capita each year.31 If this rate does not decrease, population growth projected between 2006 and 2050 will add about 2.1 million tons of additional solid waste each year.


  1. Justin Quinn, "Sprawl Still Tops Residents' Concerns," Intelligencer Journal, November 15, 2002.
  2. American Community Survey, Three-Year Estimates 2006-2008. Data retrieved using ACS Custom Table tool.
  3. Kids Count Data Center, Kids Count Data Center, 2008 American Community Survey Data.
  4. American Community Survey, Three-Year Estimates 2006-2008. Data retrieved using ACS Custom Table tool. Among metropolitan areas with more than 20,000 people (database does not return data for smaller areas).
  5. U.S. Geological Survey 2000.
  6. U.S. Water News Online. "Philadelphia wants local, federal action to curb drugs in water." April, 2008
  7. Katelyn Polantz. "Pittsburgh's rivers, water full of toxins." The Pitt-News. March 22, 2007.
  8. Don Hopey. "Fish study raises red flag on water supply." Pittsburge Post-Gazette. June 21, 2007
  9. Report Card for America's Infrastructure, Accessed July 22, 2010 (2009 Data).
  10. "Table DP-1-4, Profile of General Demographic Characteristics: 2000," Census 2000, U.S. Census Bureau. "Selected Economic Characteristics: 2005" Data Set - 2005 American Community Survey, American Fact Finder, U.S. Census Bureau.
  11. American Community Survey, 2008 Estimates, Custom Data Table.
  12. American Community Survey, 2008 Estimates, Custom Data Table.
  13. "Highway Hold-ups: How Road Building Creates Congestion and Wastes Tax Dollars," PennEnvironment, August 2001.
  14. Report Card for America's Infrastructure, Accessed July 22, 2010 (2009 Data).
  15. USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, "Summary Report: 2007 National Resources Inventory."
  16. Ryan Robinson, "A Limited Success," Lancaster New Era, December 9, 2002. Ryan Robinson, "Growing Grades: Does your Township Pass or Fail?" Lancaster New Era, December 10, 2002.
  17. Don Hopey, "State Has No Plan to Save Nature," Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, December 10, 2002.
  18. Beck, Roy and Leon Kolankiewicz, "Weighing Sprawl Factors in Large U.S. Cities," NumbersUSA, March 2001
  19. American Farmland Trust, "Farming on the Edge"
  20. "Southern Cities Rank High in Ozone Pollution," Associated Press, April 30, 2001.
  21. Josef Hebert, "California Smoggiest," Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, August 30, 2002.
  22. American Lung Association, "State of the Air 2010."
  23. Migration Information Source State Data (Migration Policy Institute)
  24. Urban Institute, Children of Immigrants Data Tool.
  25. 25-6"Overview of Public Elementary and Secondary Schools and Districts: School Year 1999-2000," National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Department of Education
    "Public Elementary and Secondary School Student Enrollment, High School Completions, and Staff From the Common Core of Data: School Year 2005-06', National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Department of Education, June 2007
  26. Ibid.
  27. Eric Eisert, "New High School Eases Crowding," Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, October 2, 2002.
  28. Genevieve Marshall, "Huge Influx of Kids' Jams Saucon Valley Campus," Morning Call, November 26, 2001.
  29. Carrie Caldwell, "Consultant Confirms Overcrowding in CV Schools," Intelligencer Journal, January 18, 2002.
  30. Jonathan Barnes, "Parents Bring Overcrowding Complaint to Board," Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, June 19, 2002.
  31. Report Card for America's Infrastructure 2005," American Society of Civil Engineers.


Other Resources  

State Local Reform Organizations

State Representatives Voting Record


Updated February 2012