22 things the American Community Survey taught us about foreign-born U.S. residents

September 19, 2013
New U.S. Census Bureau data shows how diverse immigrant populations are (Photo by Katherine Frey/The Washington Post)
New U.S. Census Bureau data shows how diverse immigrant populations are (Photo by Katherine Frey/The Washington Post)

We can’t get enough of the new data flowing out of the Census Bureau with Thursday’s release of the 2012 American Community Survey. Here are a few facts that caught our eye about the 40.8 million foreign-born people who live in the United States:

– Foreign-born Americans are twice as likely to have a college education as an American-born resident. Census figures show 53.9 percent of foreign-born residents have at least some college experience, while just 26.9 percent of natives have advanced past high school.

– About 12 percent of foreign-born residents come from Europe. They’re the oldest immigrant group, with a median age of 52.5 years. Almost a third of European immigrants, 32.7 percent, make more than $75,000 a year. But just 57.5 percent of European-born immigrants are in the labor force, the lowest of all immigrant populations. They also have the smallest households; the average European-born immigrant household has just 2.4 people.

– African immigrants make up just 4 percent of the U.S. population. Almost 70 percent of African immigrants showed up in the United States before 2000. African-born immigrants are most likely to be in the labor force; 75 percent have looked or are actively looking for a job.

– Asian-born immigrants make up more than a quarter of all non-native U.S. residents. More than a fifth of non-citizen Asia natives moved to the United States between 2000 and 2009. Nearly half of all Asian immigrants hold at least a bachelor’s degree or a graduate or professional degree. Asian immigrants are the wealthiest immigrant population, with a median household income of $66,320 per year. Immigrants from South Central Asia, a region that includes India and Pakistan, had a median household income of $86,015.

– Latin American-born immigrants make up about half the foreign-born population in the United States, but they’re least likely to be citizens. Only 25 percent of Latin American immigrants are citizens. The vast majority of Latin American immigrants — 65 percent — entered the country before 2000. Immigrants from Latin American countries are much more likely than other immigrant groups to work in the construction or food service industries. But the variation in median income is huge: Immigrants from Mexico have a median household income of just $35,739, while immigrants who come from South America made a median $50,282 household income.

– Latin American households are also the largest, at an average of 4.27 residents, and the least likely to speak only English within the home; just 15 percent speak English only. But they’re the most likely to drive: 91 percent of Latin American households reported having a vehicle, a few percentage points higher than European-born immigrants.

Reid Wilson covers state politics and policy for the Washington Post's GovBeat blog. He's a former editor in chief of The Hotline, the premier tip sheet on campaigns and elections, and he's a complete political junkie.
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Reid Wilson · September 19, 2013