NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

U.S. Foreign-Born Population Swelled In 1990s

September 17, 1999

The nation's foreign-born population increased nearly four times faster than that of the native-born population this decade, according to a new Census Bureau study. Nearly one in 10 U.S. residents is foreign-born -- a proportion similar to that recorded in 1850.

But the new arrivals now come from the south and from farther east than in the closing years of the 19th century, when Europeans dominated immigration to the U.S.

  • There were 25,208,000 foreign-born U.S. residents as of July 1, 1998 -- 9.3 percent of the nation's population.
  • That was up from 19,840,000 in the 1990 census -- when they made up 8 percent of the population.
  • The number of foreign-born Hispanics grew 34 percent from mid-1990 through mid-1998 -- from 8 million to 10.7 million.
  • During that time span, the foreign-born population grew by 27.1 percent -- nearly four times the 7.1 percent increase in the native population.

The proportion of the foreign-born in the U.S. population reached its peak around 1890 when the census that year revealed that 14.8 percent came from abroad. That fell to 14.7 percent in 1910 -- after which it fell steadily until 1970, when it bottomed out at 4.7 percent. Thereafter, it climbed to 6.2 percent in 1980, then 7.9 percent in 1990.

Source: Associated Press, "Foreign-Born Percentage Nears High Rate of 1850," Washington Times, September 17, 1999.


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