A recent analysis of data from the Census Bureau highlights the degree to which immigrants integrate into U.S. society and contribute to the U.S. economy. In its latest statistical profile of the foreign-born population, the Pew Hispanic Center presents statistics which illustrate that most immigrants have been here for more than a decade, more become homeowners the longer they are here, and growing numbers are becoming U.S. citizens. Moreover, the data show the degree to which immigrants fuel labor-force growth and fill valuable roles in the economy as workers in both high-skilled and less-skilled occupations.

According to Pew’s analysis:

  • The majority of immigrants are not newcomers to this country. As of 2010, more than one-third (38.2%) of the nation’s 39.9 million immigrants had come to the United States before 1990, while more than a one-quarter (27.1%) had arrived during the 1990s. Just over one-third (34.7%) had come in 2000 or later.
  • The longer immigrants are here, the more likely they are to own a home. As of 2010, only one-quarter (24.9%) of foreign-born heads of households who arrived in the country in 2000 or later owned their own home. But this rose to nearly half (49.1%) of those who arrived during the 1990s and more than two-thirds (67.4%) of those who arrived before 1990.
  • Immigrants are becoming naturalized U.S. citizens in large numbers. Between 2000 and 2010, the number of immigrants who were naturalized citizens increased by 5 million, from 12.5 million to 17.5 million. Those 5 million newly minted citizens are also potential new voters.
  • Immigrants have become a driving force in the growth of the U.S. population, which is a key component of growth in the labor force. Between 2000 and 2010, the size of the foreign-born population increased by 28.2%, while the native-born population grew by only 7.6%.
  • Immigrants fill vital roles in both highly skilled and less-skilled occupations.  As of 2010, the foreign-born accounted for:

▪ 42.6% of workers in farming, fishing, and forestry.
▪ 31.1% of workers in building and grounds cleaning and maintenance.
▪ 22.9% of workers in construction.
▪ 22.4% of workers in production occupations.
▪ 22.2% of workers in computer and mathematical occupations.
▪ 21.2% of workers in life, physical, and social sciences.
▪ 20.5% of workers in food preparation and serving.
▪ 18.1% of workers in personal care and service.
▪ 17.7% of workers in architecture and engineering.
▪ 17.3% of workers in health care support.

The Pew data illustrate the degree to which immigrants are part of the nation’s social and economic fabric. Immigrants and the native-born do not exist in separate and distinct worlds. In fact, their lives and fates are very much intertwined. This is a critical fact that must be kept in mind if we are to have a meaningful debate about immigration in this country.

Photo by Monkey Business Images.