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February 2001, Volume 8, Number 2

Census: Population and Foreign-born

Census. The US Census Bureau reported there were 281,421,906 US residents on April 1, 2000, up 32 million, or 13 percent, from the 249 million in 1990. The 2000 Census will be used to apportion the 435 seats in the House of Representatives- there will be a transfer of 12 House seats, affecting 18 states, when the 108th Congress takes office in 2003. Each representative represents about 650,000 residents.

The US population doubled between 1900 and 1950, and almost doubled again between 1950 and 2000; Americans were about five percent of the world's population in 1900 and 2000. At least a third of the 1990s population increase was due to immigration- the immigrant share of population growth would be even higher if births to immigrants in the US were attributed to immigration.

California had 33.9 million residents on April 1, 2000, followed by Texas with 20.9 million; New York with 19 million; Florida with 16 million; and Illinois and Pennsylvania, about 12.3 million each. Wyoming was the smallest state, with 500,000 residents. Some 576,400 Americans lived overseas in April 2000. Historical census data from 1790 to 1960 are available at: http://fisher.lib.virginia.edu/census/

California's population has increased rapidly in the past 150 years. There were about 93,000 residents in 1850; 1.5 million in 1900; and 5.7 million in 1930; 15.7 million in 1960; and 29.8 million in 1990.

Foreign-Born. There were 28.4 million foreign-born US residents in March 2000, making immigrants 10 percent of US residents. The number of foreign-born US residents tripled between 1970 and 2000, from 9.6 to 28.4 million. The number of immigrants is more than twice the previous peak of 13.5 million in 1910, but the US population was then far smaller, so immigrants were 15 percent of US residents at the time.

Census director Kenneth Prewitt highlighted the fact that 10 percent of US residents are foreign-born, and said that continuing immigration will mean that, in the 21st century "we redefine ourselves as the first country in world history which is literally made up of every part of the world."

Foreigners were 12 percent of the US labor force of 140 million in March 2000. The labor force included 134 million employed and six million unemployed, 74 million men and 66 million women. There were 17 million foreign-born in the labor force, including 10 million foreign-born men and seven million foreign-born women.

The labor force is defined as all persons over 16 who are employed or looking for work. There were 67 million US residents who were not in the labor force. There were 183 million US-born persons 16 and older in the US population and 67 percent of them were in the labor force. Among the 26 million foreign-born persons 16 and older, 17 million or 67 percent were in the labor force. A higher proportion of foreign-born males than US-born males were in the labor force, 80 percent compared to 73 percent, and a smaller proportion of foreign-born females were in the labor force, 54 percent compared to 62 percent of US-born women.

A USC demographer released a report in January 2001 that found that 24 percent of California residents were foreign-born in 2000; he projected 26 percent foreign-born residents. The number of California residents who were immigrants in the state less than 10 years fell from 11 percent in 1990 to eight percent in 2000. In 1990, 49 percent of California immigrants had been in the US 10 years or more; in 2000, this percentage rose to 66 percent.

Indians. There are 550 officially recognized Indian tribes in the US, about 80 percent of the tribes use the percentage or quantum of Indian blood to determine who is a member of the tribe. The required percentage of Indian blood varies from 1/64 for some Eastern tribes to one-half for the White Mountain Apaches of Arizona. Many western tribes require at least one-fourth Indian blood.

Being Indian can sometimes bring economic advantages: there are some 30 activities that require Indians to certify tribal membership--everything from obtaining special federal health services to the right to possess eagle feathers to the right to sell one's craft work as "native" art.


Mark Bixler, "More Latinos working in business, living in suburbs, Atlanta Journal and Constitution, January 15, 2001. Hector Tobar, "A Battle Over Who Is Indian," Los Angeles Times, January 4, 2001.