The New Americans

The National Story from the Mumford Center

More Americans Foreign-Born, Multi-Lingual and Going West

More Americans are foreign-born and multi-lingual, according to Census data now available for the Nation's 331 metro areas. About 5% of residents in the average metro area are people who entered the country within the previous ten years. The accumulated effect of a constant stream of immigrants entering the country over the last three decades is becoming very noticeable, with the percentage of Americans born outside the United States in the average metropolis increasing from 9.5% to 13% over the last decade. One result is that almost one quarter of Americans now speaks a language other than English at home, rising from 15.7% in 1990 to 21% in 2000. These include immigrants as well as many of their children and even their grandchildren born in the U.S.

Increased bilingualism is evident throughout the country, but most pronounced in the West where almost one-third of the population now speaks a language other than English at home, rising from 24.9% in 1990 to 31.5% in 2000. This trend is only beginning to reach the Midwest where only a tenth of the population is bilingual, increasing from 8.1% in 1990 to 11% in 2000.

New York City is the top destination for new immigrants with 1.3 million arriving in the last decade. Los Angeles-Long Beach is now the number two destination for new immigrants, with 1.2 million residents arriving in the country during the 1990s (12.4% of the population). However this number is down from the 1.5 million who had arrived in the 1980s. Chicago is the third most attractive destination, with more than 600,000 recent immigrants, double the 300,000 who arrived in the 1980's.

Some of the largest increases in immigration were seen in the West. The percentage of foreign-born residents increased in San Jose from 23.1% in 1990 to 34.1% in 2000 and in Oakland from 16.2% to 24.0%. The foreign-born population in Las Vegas and Phoenix doubled over the last decade. Dallas also saw a huge jump in new arrivals with more than 330,000 recent immigrants, up from 130,000 in 1990. Atlanta is a new destination: it received four times as many new immigrants in the 1990's than it had in the 1980's.