Charts of the Week: Immigration and diversity

Map: where race-ethnic minority groups are highly represented, by county

Immigration to the U.S. continues to be a hot-button political issue, with the Trump administration pursuing policies to lower overall immigration at a time when U.S. population growth is falling. Brookings Senior Fellow William Frey, a leading demographer, has produced insightful and important research about America’s changing racial and ethnic composition, and has noted the need for more, rather than less, immigration.

US experiencing Slowest Population Growth in History  

U.S. population growth from 2018-19 has been the lowest since the year 1918, and the decade starting in 2010 the lowest in U.S. history, according to analysis by William Frey. He explains that “the decade’s patterns reveal a nation with unprecedented growth stagnation, an absolute decline in its under-18 youth population.” The 7.1% projection of growth between 2010 and 2020 is lower than any decade previously. Frey concludes that “as the country faces continued population stagnation, the 2020s will become a crucial period for understanding the role of immigrants in our economy and society.”

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SLOWING Immigration will not STOP America’S RISING DIVERSITY

Even if immigration levels to the U.S. drop, the country will continue to grow in racial and ethnic diversity. Frey explains that “the new [U.S. Census] projections show that the U.S. will continue to become more racially diverse under all migration scenarios, even with zero additional immigration,” owing in part to the declining white, non-Hispanic population. Frey notes also, however, that “the current level of immigration is essential for our nation’s future growth, especially sustaining the younger population.” 


County-level representation of race and minority groups

Frey’s analysis of county-level population data shows “racial minority populations—especially Hispanic, Asian and black Americans—continue to expand, leaving fewer parts of the country untouched by diversity.” He observes that the highest concentration of Black Americans remains in the South, which, as a region houses 58% of the nation’s black population” and that although many counties seem to show no racial minorities, “many of these are small, less urban, and sparsely populated areas where the white population is stagnating.” Frey concludes that “increasing diversity is prevalent everywhere.” 

Map: where race-ethnic minority groups are highly represented, by county(Note: this is an interactive map; click to the original page to see county-level data)