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April 2012 Volume 19 Number 2
Foreign-Born, Education, Economy
The Pew Hispanic Center, using American Community Survey data, reported 40 million or 13 percent foreign-born US residents in 2010. Between 2000 and 2010, the number of immigrants in the US rose by nine million, representing a third of the US population increase.<< back
Immigrants in the US included 12 million people born in Mexico, 10 million born in South and East Asia, and 10 million born in the Caribbean and Central and South America. Thus, 80 percent of US immigrants were from Latin America and Asia. About 1.8 million US residents were born in India; another 1.8 million in the Philippines; 1.6 million were born in China; 1.2 million were born in both Vietnam and El Salvador; and 1.1 million were born in both Cuba and Korea.
California had the most immigrants, about 10.1 million; followed by New York with 4.3 million; Texas with 4.1 million; Florida with 3.7 million; and New Jersey and Illinois, about 1.8 million each. California had the highest share of immigrants among residents, at 27 percent, followed by New York at 22 percent. A third of Mexican-born US residents were in California.
However, the fastest growth in immigrant populations between 2000 and 2010 was in southeastern states. Kentucky's foreign-born population rose by 101 percent, followed by an 80 percent increase in South Carolina and over 65 percent increases in Arkansas and North Carolina.
By race/ethnicity, the US in 2010 had 197 million non-Hispanic whites, including four percent who were born abroad; 51 million Hispanics, including 37 percent born abroad; 38 million Blacks, including eight percent born abroad; and 15 million Asians, including two-thirds born abroad. There were four million Chinese Americans, followed by 3.4 million Filipinos; about six million Asians live in California.
ACS data indicate that 50 million Americans described themselves as of German heritage in 2010; followed by 36 million Americans who described themselves as of Irish descent; 32 million of Mexican descent; 27 million of English descent; and 18 million of Italian descent (each group includes persons born in the country).
Foreign-born adults earn $9,000 a year less than US-born workers, a median $33,000 compared to $42,000 in 2010. Full-time workers born in Mexico earned a median $24,000, while full-time workers born in Asia earned a median $47,000. The gap in median household incomes is smaller than the gap between individual incomes, $50,000 for households with a US-born head compared to $46,000 for households with a foreign-born head.
One reason for lower earnings is less education. A third of foreign-born workers had not graduated from high school, compared with 10 percent of US-born workers. Among Mexican immigrants, over 60 percent had not graduated from high school; one percent had advanced degrees. Among Asian immigrants, 15 percent had not graduated from high school and 20 percent had advanced degrees (10 percent of US born adults have advanced degrees).
The occupational distribution reinforces stereotypes. About four percent of US-born workers have science and engineering occupations, compared to 14 percent of those born in Asia. Less than one percent of US-born workers have farming occupations, compared with seven percent of Mexican-born workers. Similarly, about five percent of US-born workers have construction occupations, compared to 15 percent of Mexican-born workers. Less than four percent of US-born workers are in building and grounds cleaning and maintenance occupations, compared to 14 percent of Mexican-born workers.
The number of Hispanic residents rose 44 percent between 2000 and 2010 to over 50 million, fueled by immigration and births. Most of the growth in Hispanic residents occurred by 2007, when the recession began to slow Hispanic population growth.
Education. The US Supreme Court will revisit the use of racial preferences in admitting students to public colleges and universities. In a 2003 case involving the University of Michigan, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that public universities could consider race and ethnicity as part of a case-by-case assessment of individuals, but not make race the dominant factor in admissions decisions.
In the upcoming Fisher versus University of Texas case, the US Supreme Court will consider a student's challenge to an admissions system that compares high school students with their peers rather than with all students across the state. By accepting the top 10 percent of students at each school, UT practically guarantees admission to some minorities because schools are relatively segregated.
California voters approved Proposition 209 in 1996 ending racial preferences in state government, including higher education. The Ninth United States Circuit Court of Appeals for the second time in April 2012 rejected an effort to overturn Prop 2009 filed by proponents of affirmative action. Five other states, Michigan, Arizona, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Washington, have banned affirmative action in state college admissions.
Since Proposition 209 was enacted, the Black share of University of California freshmen has remained at about four percent, while the Hispanic share has risen from 15 percent to 22 percent. UC uses a Texas-style percentage system that admits the top nine percent of students at each high school, and its "holistic review" of student applications reduces the weight of grades and test scores and takes a broader look at student experiences and the challenges they have overcome.
Economy. President Obama's state of the union speech in January 2012 called for raising taxes on wealthy Americans to support a more activist government that could improve US competitiveness. Obama called on lenders to help borrowers who are struggling with their mortgages, and asked Congress to reward US firms that "in-source" or return jobs to the US. Obama called for improved education and training programs to provide US manufacturers with better workers.
In Fall 2011, an eighth of US mortgage borrowers missed at least one payment or were in foreclosure, down from the peak one in six but far above the normal one in 20.
The share of federal and state government spending devoted to safety net programs has risen because of expanded eligibility and recessions that reduced tax revenues. In 2000, about 37 percent of federal and state government spending went for safety net programs that range from Social Security to health care for the poor and elderly; by 2010, that share had risen to 66 percent. Almost half of US residents lived in households that received government benefits in 2010, up from 38 percent in 1998.
Medicare, the federal program that provides health insurance for the elderly, is the fastest growing open-ended entitlement program. Workers contribute to Medicare while employed, but the average recipient receives about $3 in benefits for every $1 contributed in Medicare taxes, with the gap largest for women because they live longer than men.