The New American Immigrant

America’s great melting pot continued from 2000 to 2010, but its ingredients are again evolving.

The Census Bureau’s American Community Survey found that 40 million foreign-born people lived in the U.S. in 2010. But notable differences emerged between the 83 percent who entered the U.S. prior to 2005 and the 17 percent who entered in 2005 or later.

Consider, for example, the place of birth of the foreign born; 54 percent of those who arrived before 2005, and 53 percent of those arriving from 2005 to 2007, were born in Latin America and the Caribbean. However, that takes a turn beginning in 2008, as only 41 percent of the most recently arrived (2008 or later) came from Latin America and the Caribbean.

In contrast, the Asian foreign born comprised a higher proportion of the later entry immigrants—27 percent prior to 2005, 30 percent from 2005 to 2008 and 40 percent in 2008 or later.

Geographically, the traditional immigrant destination states— California, New York, Texas, Florida, New Jersey and Illinois—accounted for the majority of the newly arrived. Still, notable differences exist between earlier and later arrivals. Newer immigrants appear to be more likely to choose to live in a location other than the traditional “gateway” states and are increasingly settling in states with smaller foreign-born populations not typically viewed as major immigrant destinations.

Of all foreign born who entered prior to 2005, about two thirds (66 percent) resided in these six states, compared to 58 percent of those who entered in 2005 or later. The difference is most clearly shown in California, which represented 27 percent of the foreign born who arrived before 2005, but only 19 percent of the newly arrived.

A similar picture emerges when considering the proportion of the foreign-born population within each state. Of the six traditional gateway states, three (California, Illinois, and New York) had a lower proportion of recent entrants than the national average. Several states with histories of lighter immigration had considerably higher proportions of recent entrants. Alabama (33 percent), Kentucky (29 percent), Louisiana (30 percent), Mississippi (32 percent), North Dakota (33 percent), South Dakota (32 percent), West Virginia (28 percent) and Wyoming (34 percent) had among the largest proportions of their foreign-born population entering in 2005 or later.