May 3, 2015
The Wall Street Journal
SAN DIEGO—Move over, Mexico. When it comes to sending immigrants to the U.S., China and India have taken the lead.
China was the country of origin for 147,000 recent U.S. immigrants in 2013, while Mexico sent just 125,000, according to a Census Bureau study by researcher Eric Jensen and others. India, with 129,000 immigrants, also topped Mexico, though the two countries’ results weren’t statistically different from each other.
For the study, presented last week at the Population Association of America conference in San Diego, researchers analyzed annual immigration data for 2000 to 2013 from the American Community Survey.
The mandatory annual survey conducted by the Census Bureau asks where respondents lived the year before. Researchers counted as an “immigrant” any foreign-born person in the U.S. who said they previously lived abroad, without asking about legal status. (So while the data include undocumented immigrants, it may undercount them.)
A year earlier, in 2012, Mexico and China had been basically tied for top-sending country—with Mexico at 125,000 and China at 124,000.
It isn’t just China and India. Several of the top immigrant-sending countries in 2013 were from Asia, including South Korea, the Philippines and Japan.
For a decade, immigration from China and India, which boast the world’s largest populations, has been rising as increasing numbers move to the U.S. to study, work and unite with families already in the country.
Meanwhile, immigration from Mexico has been declining due to improvements in the Mexican economy and lower Mexican birthrates. More recently, the U.S. recession also reduced illegal immigration from Mexico.
A shift in America’s immigrant community will take far longer. In 2012, five times as many immigrants in the U.S. were from Mexico than China. But the changing nature of the immigrant flows seen in the Census study provide a glimpse of what is likely to happen to the overall racial and ethnic makeup of the U.S. population.
The millennial generation—roughly speaking, people born between 1982 and 2000, but definitions vary and there is no real endpoint—already is the most ethnically diverse generation in U.S. history. As Brookings Institution demographer William Frey details in his recent book, “Diversity Explosion,” the social, economic and cultural implications are just starting to surface.
By 2044, according to Census projections, the entire U.S. population will have no racial majority, and, instead, a melting pot of minorities will shape American society and politics. Hispanics are still the U.S.’s largest racial or ethnic minority group, but about two-thirds of them are now native-born, not recent immigrants.
Write to Neil Shah at [email protected]