Immigrants in 2010 Metropolitan America:A Decade of Change

Audrey Singer and Jill H. Wilson
Jill H. Wilson Former Senior Research Analyst & Associate Fellow - Metropolitan Policy Program

October 13, 2011

During the first decade of the 21st century, immigrants continued to settle at a faster rate in newer, smaller metropolitan destinations and in suburban areas within metro areas. As the foreign-born population disperses to different destinations, localities, states and the nation will continue to face policy challenges on how to incorporate the new arrivals.

Newly released data from the Census Bureau’s 2010 American Community Survey (ACS) on the foreign-born population show that:

  • The foreign-born population in the United States reached 40 million in 2010, an increase of 8.8 million since 2000.  Growth in the 2000s slowed from the rapid influx seen in the 1990s, the largest increase on record.
  • Immigrant settlement became less concentrated during the 2000s as metropolitan areas with relatively small immigrant populations grew quickly.  The five U.S. metro areas with the largest number of immigrants housed 38 percent of U.S. foreign-born population in 2010, down from 43 percent in 2000. Twenty-one (21) metropolitan areas gained at least 100,000 immigrants between 2000 and 2010; among those, Baltimore (72 percent), Orlando (72 percent), Las Vegas (71 percent), Atlanta (69 percent), and Riverside (52 percent) saw the fastest rates of growth. 
  • In 2010, 51 percent of immigrants nationwide lived in the suburbs of large metropolitan areas, up from 48 percent in 2000.  Immigrants within the largest metro areas remain somewhat less likely to live in the suburbs (61 percent) than overall population (69 percent).
  • Immigrants living in the United States in 2010 were more likely to have been in this country for a decade or more compared to those living here in 2000.  Today’s immigrants are also more likely to be U.S. citizens, to be born in Latin America, Asia, or Africa, and to be more educated than immigrants a decade ago. Not surprisingly, given the Great Recession, immigrants in 2010 were more likely to be poor than those in 2000.