January 29, 2013

A Nation of Immigrants

A Portrait of the 40 Million, Including 11 Million Unauthorized

Overview

PHC-2013-01-SP-01The nation’s total immigrant population reached a record 40.4 million in 2011, according to an analysis of Census Bureau data by the Pew Hispanic Center, a project of the Pew Research Center.

Over the last decade, the number of immigrants in the U.S. has steadily grown. Since 2007 alone, the number of immigrants living in the U.S. increased by 2.4 million.

The number of unauthorized immigrants living in the U.S. also grew during the last decade, rising from 8.4 million in 2000 to 11.1 million in 2011. However, this population peaked at 12 million in 2007, then fell to 11.1 million in 2009. It has remained at that level through 2011, the last year for which an estimate is available (Passel and Cohn, 2012).

The United States is the world’s leader by far as a destination for immigrants. The country with the next largest number is Russia with 12.3 million. The U.S. total of 40.4 million, which includes legal as well as unauthorized immigrants, represents 13% of the total U.S. population in 2011. While the foreign-born population size is a record, immigrants’ share of the total population is below the U.S. peak of just under 15% during a previous immigration wave from 1890 to 1920 that was dominated by arrivals from Europe. The modern wave, which began with the passage of border-opening legislation in 1965, has been dominated by arrivals from Latin America (about 50%) and Asia (27%).

Accompanying this report is a statistical portrait of the nation’s foreign-born population. It is based on the Census Bureau’s 2011 American Community Survey and features detailed characteristics of the U.S. foreign-born population at the national level, as well as state population totals. Topics covered include age, nativity, citizenship, origin, language proficiency, living arrangements, marital status, fertility, schooling, health insurance coverage, earnings, poverty and employment.

The Pew Research Center has also published several reports on the number and characteristics of the nation’s unauthorized immigrant population and on public opinion about immigration policy and views of immigrants. Key findings from this research are shown below.

Number of Unauthorized Immigrants and their Characteristics

The Pew Hispanic Center has published a number of reports on the size and characteristics of the nation’s unauthorized immigrant population. The Center’s latest estimate of the number of U.S. unauthorized immigrants was 11.1 million in 2011, a number that did not significantly change from the previous two years (Passel and Cohn, 2012). Other findings from the Center, based on a number of data sources, include:

Attitudes about Immigrants and Immigration Reform

The Pew Research Center has a number of resources exploring the public’s attitudes towards immigrants and immigration policy. Among some key findings in recent Pew Research Center research:

  1. The terms “Latino” and “Hispanic” are used interchangeably in this report.