Yesterday, May 8, 2013, the Congressional Budget Office (“CBO”) released an updated report to Congress analyzing the current immigration population in the United States. The report is interesting not only in the context of the ongoing debate on the proposed Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR) bill which is currently in Congress but also to get a current glimpse of the trends of composition of the immigrant population in the United States. We are happy to provide a summary of the report findings.
Size and Composition of the Foreign-Born Population
In 2012, about 40 million foreign-born people lived in the United States, making up about 13 percent of the U.S. population—the largest share since 1920. The number of immigrants was about the same in 2011, the latest year for which certain data on immigrants are available. Of that total in 2011, naturalized citizens (foreign-born people who have fulfilled the requirements for U.S. citizenship) accounted for about 18 million, and noncitizens (foreign-born people authorized to live and work in the United States either temporarily or permanently and people who are not authorized to live or work in the United States) accounted for about 22 million. About half of the noncitizens were people without authorization to live or work in the United States, either temporarily or permanently. See chart.
In 2011, about 37 percent of foreign-born people in the United States were from Mexico or Central America; the next-largest group came from Asia and constituted about 28 percent of the total foreign-born population. Of noncitizens unauthorized to live in the United States, an estimated 59 percent were from Mexico, and an estimated 14 percent were from El Salvador, Guatemala, or Honduras. See chart.
Lawful Permanent Residents
From 2000 to 2012, more than 13 million people were granted lawful permanent resident (LPR) status in the United States, an average of about 1 million per year. Lawful permanent residents are permitted to live, work, and study in the United States, and receiving LPR status is an important milestone on the path to U.S. citizenship. Roughly two-thirds of new LPRs were immediate relatives of U.S. citizens or were admitted under family-sponsored preferences.
Demographic Characteristics of the Foreign-Born Population
In 2012, about 1 in 4 people in California and about 1 in 5 people in New York and in New Jersey were born in another country. However, in another 31 states, taken together, only about 1 person in 20 was foreign born. See chart.
Between 1999 and 2012, the share of the population constituted by foreign-born people increased in all but two states and, for the nation as a whole, rose by 2.8 percentage points, to roughly 13 percent. See chart.
Level of education is somewhat less, on average, among foreign-born people than among native-born people, and it varies considerably depending on immigrants’ country of origin. In 2012, 27 percent of the foreign-born population between the ages of 25 and 64 had not completed high school, compared with 7 percent of the native-born population. More than half of the people from Mexico and Central America, 54 percent, had not finished high school, but only about 9 percent of the people from Asia and 5 percent of the people from Europe and Canada had less than a high school education. In addition, about 55 percent of the people from Asia had at least a bachelor’s degree, as did 51 percent of the people from Europe and Canada; just 33 percent of the native-born population had earned at least a bachelor’s degree. See chart.
Labor Market Characteristics
An interesting analysis focused on the ability to seek/find employment and on the salaries received by various segments of the immigrant population. For example, foreign-born men are more likely to be working or looking for work (that is, to be
in the labor force) than are native-born men; foreign-born women, however, are less likely than native-born women to be in the labor force.
The differences in educational attainment and participation in the labor force (as well as in groups’ concentration in particular occupations) were reflected in differences in annual earnings. The amount and distribution of annual earnings were similar for naturalized and native-born citizens, but earnings tended to be much lower among noncitizens. The amount of annual earnings among foreign-born workers also varied greatly by their country of origin. For example, in 2011, the median annual earnings of male workers from Mexico and Central America was $24,000—whereas among male workers from Asia, the median was $50,000; among their counterparts from Europe and Canada, it was $55,000; and among native-born male workers, $46,000. Among female workers from Mexico and Central America, median annual earnings were $17,000—whereas among their counterparts from Asia, the median was $30,000; among those from Europe and Canada, it was $35,000; and among native-born female workers, $32,000.
The CBO report is very interesting as it raises some questions with respect to the demographics and labor market participation of the individuals who would be covered under the proposed CIR. Also, this report is likely to be used by all sides in the CIR debate as to why certain parts of the proposed reform should be kept or changed, depending on the political standpoint of those making the argument.
We continue to monitor closely developments in Congress related to Comprehensive Immigration Reform and we expect a lot of activity over the next days and weeks. Please feel free to subscribe to our free weekly newsletter to obtain developments on this and related topics. If our office can be of any help, please feel free to contact us.