South Dakota


Immigration Facts
Summary Demographic State Data (and Source)
Population (2012 CB est.) 833,354
Population (2000 CB est.) 754,844
Foreign-Born Population (2012 CB est.) 22,857
Foreign-Born Population (2000 CB est.) 13,495
Share Foreign-Born (2012) 2.7 %
Share Foreign-Born (2000) 1.7%
Naturalized U.S. Citizens (2012 CB est.): 8,804
Share Naturalized (2012) 38.5 %
Legal Immigrant Admission (DHS 2001 – 2012) 8,381
Refugee Admission (HHS 2000 – 2012) 5,866
Illegal Alien Population (2010 FAIR est.) 5,000
Costs of Illegal Aliens (2009 FAIR) $33,306,846
Projected 2050 Population (2006 FAIR) 894,000

State Population

According to the Census Bureau, the population of South Dakota in 2012 was 833,354 residents.

Between 2000 (population 754,844) and 2012, the state's average annual population change was 6,409 residents. That was an annual average change of 0.8 percent. The comparable national annual rate of change was 0.9 percent.

Between 1990 (population 696,004) and 2000, the state's annual average population change was 5,884 residents. The annual average rate of change was 0.8 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 South Dakota was about 22,857 persons in 2012. This estimate meant a foreign-born population share of 2.7 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 764 people, compared to the state's annual average population change of about 6,409  people. That is a 11.9  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 69.4 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 5.4 percent share of the state's current births is large enough to account for about 630 births a year. Combining the average increase in the foreign-born population and estimated immigrant births suggests that immigration may account for about 1,390 persons added to the state's population annually, i.e., nearly 21.7 percent of the state's overall population increase.

As of 2012 about 68.6 percent of South Dakota's foreign-born population had arrived in the state since 2000. This compares with the national average 40.9 percent. In 2000, 55.0 percent of the state's foreign-born population that had arrived since the previous Census.

Foreign-Born Characteristics

An indicator of the change in South Dakota'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 6.5 percent to 6.3 percent. In 2000, 35.9 percent of those persons in also said they spoke English less than very well. In the 2012 estimate, the share was 36.5 percent that spoke English less than very well. In 2012 Spanish speakers were 29.9 percent of those who spoke other than English at home, and 35.5 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 8,804 residents of South Dakota, or 38.5 percent of the foreign-born population in South Dakota, were naturalized U.S. citizens, compared to 5,452 residents, or 40.4 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 South Dakota's population resulting from net international migration has been about 1,540 people. It was 10.5 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 South Dakota were 569 percent above admissions just after adoption of the current immigration system in 1965. During the 1965 to 1969 period, annual admissions averaged about 176 persons. During the most recent five years, annual admissions averaged about 1,178 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 South Dakota between fiscal years 1965 and 2012 has been 22,561 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 South Dakota was 105 (61 pre-1982 residents and 44 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 South Dakota 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


South Dakota has received 5,866 refugees over the most recent ten fiscal years including 646 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

South Dakota Fiscal Costs
Due to Illegal Aliens
           ($M) (Pct.)
K-12 educ. $13.50 40.5%
LEP educ. $2.70 8.1%
Medicaid+ $2.80 8.4%
SCHIP $0.70 2.1%
Justice $3.90 11.7%
Welfare+ $3.50 10.5%
General $6.20 18.6%
Total $33.30  
Tax receipts $1.10  
Net Cost $32.20  
Source: "The State Cost Studies"

FAIR Estimate - FAIR estimates the illegal alien population of South Dakota as of 2010 was about 5,000 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 South Dakota 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 <10,000 as of>

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 South Dakota 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 South Dakota, LEP public school enrollment in 2010 ( 4,406) was 80.2 percent of LEP enrollment a decade earlier. By contrast, overall K-12 enrollment in the state was 94.4 percent of enrollment a decade earlier.

Population Projection

FAIR projected South Dakota's population in 2050 likely would be between 884,000 million and 894,000 million with current levels of immigration. Alternatively, the population could be lower (840,000) 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 South Dakota as 1,498 in 2013.

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

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

Immigration Impact

Environmental and Quality of Life Profile

Water: South Dakota has a per-capita, public-supply, water demand of 123.2 gallons per day.1 If current growth trends continue, by 2050 the state's population is expected increase by well over 100,000, a net increase of 14.4 percent since 2006. This means that in 2050, human demand for water in South Dakota could increase by 13.8 million gallons per day.

Prone to drought, South Dakota may find extra demand detrimental when dry times inevitably strike. South Dakota has been suffering from a drought that covered much of the state, especially the southwestern corner. However, even in areas no longer under the drought status, reservoirs are well below historical averages.2 Mike Gillispie, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service in Sioux Falls, noted the precarious nature of South Dakota. In as little as two dry weeks he said the state could be reemerged in a serious drought.3

Additionally, southern South Dakota gets groundwater from the High Plains/Ogallala aquifer. Aquifer depletion has caused increased pumping costs and decreased land values, forcing some farmers into bankruptcy.4 In some areas water levels of the Ogallala have declined in excess of 150 feet.5 Although the Ogallala Aquifer is an enormous water source, even it is not inexhaustible as long as pumping exceeds replenishment.

The Ogallala is critical to farming in the center of the nation. However, it is replenished slowly because of the relatively dry area. At least 12 billion cubic meters are being drawn from it every year. It's drying up.6 When this happens, the High Plains Region may become little more than desert.

Traffic: Traffic on highways in South Dakota increased by 25 percent between 1990 and 2008.7 As population growth put more traffic on the roads, the average commute for South Dakota residents increased from 14 minutes in 1990 to 16.6 minutes in 2005.8 About 6 percent of South Dakota commuters had a commute of 45 minutes or longer in 2008.9

One-third (33%) of the state's roads are in poor or mediocre condition, and 25 percent of its bridges are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. The typical South Dakota driver pays an additional $324 each year in maintenance and operating costs due to road conditions.

Disappearing open space: The amount of developed land in South Dakota increased by 151,200 acres from 1982 to 2007, growing at a pace of 4,120 acres per year over the last ten years of that period.10

Crowded housing: An estimated 6,113 of South Dakota's housing units were classified as crowded in 2008, defined as units with more than one occupant per room. This amounted to 1.9 percent of the state's housing units. In addition, 1,691 were severely crowded, with at least 1.5 occupants per room.11 10 percent of the state's children live in crowded housing.12 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).13

Poverty: South Dakota is one of the few states in which natives are more likely to be poor than immigrants. In 2008, 8.4 percent of foreign born households in the state are in poverty, compared to 12.5 percent of native households. An additional 9.4 percent of the foreign born and 8.7 percent of native households were not in poverty but had incomes below 1.5 times the poverty level.14

Education: South Dakota's public school enrollment is projected to grow by 1,200 students between 2009 and 2018.15

Solid Waste: South Dakota generates 0.68 tons of solid waste per capita each year.16


  1. U.S. Geological Survey 2000.
  2. Associated Press. "Today: Drought status is a hard call." June 26, 2008.
  3. Matthew Gruchow. "South Dakota's drought is over." Argus Leader Media. June 18, 2008.
  4. Nancy Cole "Shrinking aquifer looms as big problem for farms." Arkansas Democrat Gazette. September 24, 2006.
  5. V.L. Mcguire. "Ground Water Depletion in the High Plains Aquifer." USGS Fact Sheet. 2007.
  6. Heidi Stevenson. "How Corporations Drain Our Aquifers for Profit (Part 2)." Natural News. June 11, 2008.
  7. The Road Information Project (TRIP), "Key Facts about South Carolina's Surface Transportation System and Federal Funding," May 2010.
  8. Table DP-1-4, Profile of General Demographic Characteristics: 1990 and 2000, Census 2000, U.S. Census Bureau. Selected Economic Characteristics: 2005 Data Set - 2005 American Community Survey, American Fact Finder, U.S. Census Bureau.
  9. American Community Survey, 2008 Estimates, Custom Data Table.
  10. USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, "Summary Report: 2007 National Resources Inventory."
  11. American Community Survey, Three-Year Estimates 2006-2008. Data retrieved using ACS Custom Table tool.
  12. Kids Count Data Center, Kids Count Data Center, 2008 American Community Survey Data.
  13. Kids Count Data Center, 2008 American Community Survey Data.
  14. State Fact Sheet, Migration Information Source, Migration Policy Institute
  15. "Table 4. Actual and projected numbers for enrollment in grades PK12 in public elementary and secondary schools, by region and state: Fall 2000 through fall 2018," National Center for Education Statistics, Department of Education.
  16. 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