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What Percentage of U.S. Population Is Foreign Born?

Immigrant children at Ellis Island, ca. 1908, from the records of the Public Health Service.

In the midst of a government shutdown, House Democrats introduced their comprehensive immigration reform package on Wednesday. How has the size and share of the immigrant population waxed and waned over the last 150 years?

In 2013, over 40 million foreign-born representing 13% of the population resided in the United States. The chart below shows the trends by decade, 1860-2010. It is adapted from the more detailed table that follows, which appears in Audrey Singer's article, "Contemporary Immigrant Gateways in Historical Perspective."

Percent foreign-born of U.S. population, 1860-2010

Foreign-born population in the United States, by decade, 1860-2010

For additional information about immigrants and immigration reform, see:

This Week in Immigration Reform, blog series
U.S. Immigrants and Prospects for Immigration Reform, podcast with Audrey Singer
Immigration Facts: Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), by Audrey Singer and Nicole Prchal Svajlenka
What New Immigrants Could Mean for American Wages, from The Hamilton Project

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