Immigrants Dominate the Nation’s Rapid Population Growth

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Just released 2010 Census data demonstrate again how the arrival of foreign-born residents is a major factor in the nation’s rapid population growth. Nationally, the population increased by 27.3 million over the past decade – a 9.7 percent increase. The immigrant population – including illegal immigrants – increased by more than 9 million persons since the 2000 Census, a 29.1 percent increase.

The increase in the foreign-born population accounted directly for about one-third (33.1%) of the nation’s overall population increase. The share is still higher when the children born to the immigrant population are considered. The foreign-born birth rate is about double their share of the population, i.e., during the past decade, when they represented one-eighth of the population, they accounted for about one-fourth of all births. The immigrant population thus accounted for about 5.3 million births over the past decade.

Combined, the increase in the immigrant population and the births to immigrants constitute more than half of the nation’s population growth. Finally, the higher birth rate of the immigrant population tends to persist with the next generation, so the children and grandchildren of immigrants are also disproportionately contributing to the country’s rapid growth.

For many states the rate of increase in the immigrant population over the 2000-2010 decade was much higher than the national rate. It was a 50 percent or higher rate of growth in 19 states: Alabama (92%), Arkansas (79%), Delaware (60%), Georgia (63%), Indiana (61%), Iowa (53%), Kentucky (75%), Maryland (55%), Mississippi (54%), Missouri (54%), Nebraska (50%), Nevada (61%), North Carolina (67%), Oklahoma (57%), Pennsylvania (85%), South Carolina (88%), South Dakota (64%), Tennessee (82%), and Virginia (60%).

Also notable was the slowing of the growth in the immigrant population in immigrant-saturated states like California. Over the past decade that state saw an increase of 14.5 percent. New York had an increase of 11.1 percent. New Jersey and Illinois also had lower than average rates (25% and 15.1% respectively). Among the traditional primary destinations for immigrants, only Florida continued to have a higher than average rate of immigrant increase (37%).

While a large percentage increase may result from a fairly small numeric change in a state that previously had a small foreign-born population, (e.g. South Dakota, Delaware or Mississippi) all but three of the above states had increases of over 50,000 foreign-born residents over the decade and 11 of them had increases of over 100,000 residents. Perhaps most telling is that the rapid increase in the number of immigrant population has contributed to a perceived need for new state enforcement laws against illegal immigration in states such as Alabama and Georgia.

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Jack, who joined FAIR’s National Board of Advisors in 2017, is a retired U.S. diplomat with consular experience. He has testified before the U.S. Congress, U.S. Civil Rights Commission, and U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform and has authored studies of immigration issues. His national and international print, TV, and talk radio experience is extensive (including in Spanish).

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