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Number of Immigrants Hits Record 37.5M

By STEPHEN OHLEMACHER
The Associated Press
Wednesday, September 12, 2007; 12:48 AM

WASHINGTON -- Nearly one in five people living in the United States speaks a language at home other than English, according to new Census data that illustrate the wide-ranging effects of immigration.

The number of immigrants nationwide reached an all-time high of 37.5 million in 2006, affecting incomes and education levels in many cities across the country. But the effects have not been uniform.

In most states, immigrants have added to the number of those lacking a high-school diploma, with almost half of those from Latin America falling into that category.

However, at the other end of the education spectrum, Asian immigrants are raising average education levels in many states, with nearly half of them holding at least a bachelor's degree.

"There is no one-size-fits-all policy that you could apply for all immigrant groups," said Mark Mather of the Population Reference Bureau. "I think most of the attention has been on low-skilled workers coming from Mexico. But we have 10 million immigrants from Asia, a number that's growing."

The Census Bureau on Wednesday released a host of demographic data about the nation, including statistics on immigration, housing, education and employment.

The data come from the American Community Survey, an annual survey of 3 million households that has replaced the Census Bureau's long-form questionnaire from the once-a-decade census. It does not distinguish between illegal immigrants and those who are in the U.S. legally.

Mather analyzed the differences in education levels among immigrants from Asia and those from Latin America. Together, the groups account for about 80 percent of all immigrants.

About 48 percent of Asian immigrants held at least a bachelor's degree, compared with about 11 percent of immigrants from Latin America. Among people born in the U.S., about 27 percent were college graduates.

"Driving this are people coming from China and India," Mather said. "They are either coming with a bachelor's degree, or they are coming with visas and getting degrees once they arrive."

At the other end of the spectrum, 47 percent of adult immigrants from Latin America lacked a high school diploma, compared with 16 percent of Asian immigrants and 13 percent of people born in the U.S.

Those numbers are fueling overall increases in the number of high-school dropouts in four states: Nevada, Arizona, Colorado and Texas, said William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank.

"It used to be the poor southern states that had low levels of education and income. Now it is the high-immigration states as well," Frey said. "But that isn't to say that the second or third generation won't do better, because they will," he added. "There is upward mobility."

Among the other highlights from the 2006 data released by the Census Bureau:

_Massachusetts led all states in college graduates, with 37 percent of adults 25 and older holding at least a bachelor's degree. West Virginia came in last with 16.5 percent.

_Mississippi led all states in high-school dropouts, with 22.1 percent of adults 25 and older not graduating from high school. Minnesota was at the other end, with only 9.3 percent.

_California led the nation in immigrants, at 27 percent of the state's population, and in people who spoke a foreign language at home, at 43 percent.

_West Virginia had the smallest share of immigrants, at 1.2 percent. It also had the smallest share of people speaking a foreign language at home, at 2.3 percent.

_New York residents had the longest average commuting time to work at nearly 31 minutes, while North Dakota had the shortest, at 15.5 minutes.

_More Americans are working later in life. In 2006, 23.2 percent of people age 65 to 74 were still in the labor force _either working or looking for work _ up from 19.6 percent in 2000.

_Fewer households consist of a married couple with children _ 21.6 percent in 2006, down from 23.5 percent in 2000.

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On The Net:

Census Bureau: http://www.census.gov

© 2007 The Associated Press