NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

New Immigrant Gateways Emerging

April 15, 2004

During the 1990s, the U.S. foreign-born population grew by a remarkable 57.4 percent. Today, immigrants are no longer limiting themselves to established destinations. According to a recent report by the Brookings Institution, nearly one-third of U.S. immigrants are residing in states that haven't traditionally been known as popular settlement areas.

Established immigrant gateways such as New York and Chicago continue to receive large numbers of the foreign-born, as are post-World War II gateways in Los Angeles and Miami. Nonetheless, thirteen states -- many of which had not previously been major destinations for immigrants -- saw their foreign-born populations more than double the national average. These states included Colorado, Georgia, Nevada and North Carolina. At a municipal level, the Brooking Institution found that:

  • Atlanta, Dallas and Washington, D.C., have experienced fast immigrant growth during the past twenty years -- for instance, Atlanta has seen its foreign-born population surge by 817 percent since 1980.
  • Seattle and the Twin-Cities -- places that began the 20th century as popular immigrant destinations then waned after World War II -- have re-emerged as important gateways.
  • Even smaller municipalities such as Salt Lake City and Raleigh-Durham, N.C., have attracted significant numbers of the foreign-born over the past decade.

The report says that immigrants in emerging gateways are far more likely to live in the suburbs than in central cities. In addition, those coming through these newest gateways tend to come from Asia or Mexico, are poorer than the native-born population, have low English proficiency, and have lower rates of U.S. citizenship.

While English proficiency among immigrants from established or post-World War II gateways remains low, their poverty rates are similar to those of the native population and they have relatively higher rates of naturalization.

Source: Audrey Singer "The Rise of New Immigrant Gateways," Brookings Institution, February 2004.


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