Sunday, June 20, 2010

Some Immigration Data

I was reading Howard Finemen’s book The Thirteen American Arguments and came across this quote in his chapter on immigration.

"At the start of the twenty-first century, the largest tide of immigration in a century—some 40 million souls arriving in a one decade period, a third of them illegally—was inundating Virginia and the rest of America."That figure of 40 million in a decade seemed way too large.

Fortunately, the Census Bureau provides data for corroboration. You can go here to find data on numbers of various groups of the "foreign born" (not born in the United States, independent of current status). As of 2007, out of a population of 302M, the number of foreign born was 38M. The number of foreign born is an integral over time. If you go here you will find that the number of immigrants from 1990-2000 was approximately 10M, with an estimated 2.25M "unauthorized."

Fineman’s claim of 40M immigrants in a decade seems consistent with the 38M of integrated foreign born. Elsewhere in his chapter he quotes numbers that are consistent with Census Bureau figures. Is there an accepted literary term equivalent to having "misspoken?"

Meanwhile, this exercise provided an opportunity to dredge up some other interesting numbers related to the issue of immigration. The number of foreign born in the 2007 tabulation was equal to 12.6% of the population. The fraction of foreign born that was Hispanic is 48% or 18M. The number of the foreign born Hispanics from Mexico was 11.7M. The oft quoted number of "as many as 12M illegal aliens" leads one to believe that all of them are people pouring over the Mexican border. It seems highly unlikely that every person who entered this country from Mexico is undocumented. I have not yet been able to find a reference to what fraction of the undocumented immigrants might be from countries other than Mexico. Roughly 35% of the foreign born Hispanics come from countries other than Mexico. The undocumented among these may also be using the Mexican border for crossing into our country.

An estimate of the number of undocumented immigrants (under the age of 65) can be found here. This document quotes a number referred to as "residual foreign born migration (includes unauthorized migrants)" of 9.98M as of the year 2000. This number could easily be extrapolated to the quoted 12M number, however, this designation also includes people who are here legally but whose paperwork is still in process, so it should be treated as an upper limit. The fraction of the people in this category who are from Mexico is 44.5%.

The number of Hispanics in this country as of 2007 is 45M. If you take the worst case and assume that 12M illegal immigrants are in the country and they are all Hispanic, then one out of four Hispanics is here illegally. Or, you can turn that around and assume that over 33M legal residents of this country are at risk of being hassled by the authorities if they live in or travel to Arizona. How would you feel if you were one of the 33M?

One more point to consider: it is often stated that minorities will soon become the majority in this country. This conclusion apparently comes from these numbers.

"The proportion of the total population that was White, not Hispanic was 83 percent in 1970 and 76 percent in 1990. By 2007, 66 percent of the total population was White, not Hispanic."The rate of decline of the White, not Hispanic population seems to be accelerating over time and within a few decades should cross the 50% line. There are now more Hispanics (45.4M) in the population than Blacks or African Americans (36.7M), and there is a healthy Asian population (13.1M).

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