Pew Research Center

SEPTEMBER 28, 2015

Hispanic Trends

The Profile of Today’s Newly Arrived Is Markedly Different than that of New Arrivals in Previous Decades

The Number of Immigrants Coming to the U.S. Peaked in 2005The rewrite of the nation’s immigration policy in 1965 opened the door to new waves of immigrants whose origins and characteristics changed substantially over the ensuing decades. As a result, newly arrived immigrants in 2013 (those who had been in the U.S. for five years or less) differ in key ways from those who were new arrivals in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.

Overall, the number of newly arrived immigrants peaked in the early 2000s: Some 8 million residents of other countries came to the U.S. between 2000 and 2005. The number of recent arrivals declined after that, to about 6 million for the years 2008 to 2013, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of federal government data.

Perhaps the most striking change in the profile of newly arrived immigrants is their source region. Asia currently is the largest source region among recently arrived immigrants and has been since 2011.3 Before then, the largest source region since 1990 had been Central and South America, fueled by record levels of Mexican migration that have since slowed. Back in 1970, Europe was the largest region of origin among newly arrived immigrants. One result of slower Mexican immigration is that the share of new arrivals who are Hispanic is at its lowest level in 50 years.

Compared with their counterparts in 1970, newly arrived immigrants in 2013 were better educated but also more likely to be poor. Some 41% of newly arrived immigrants in 2013 had at least a bachelor’s degree. In 1970, that share was just 20%. On poverty, 28% of recent arrivals in 2013 lived in poverty, up from 18% in 1970. In addition, fewer of the newly arrived in 2013 were children than among the newly arrived immigrants in 1970—19% vs. 27%.

Yet on several other measures, the characteristics of the newly arrived today are returning to those of the newly arrived in 1970. On gender, 51% of the newly arrived in 2013 were women, compared with 47% in 2000 and 54% in 1970. In terms of geographic dispersion, half of new arrivals in 2013 lived in one of four states: California, Florida, New York or Texas. Nearly two-thirds of new arrivals lived in those four states in 1990, up from a third in 1970. California alone had 38% of recently arrived immigrants in 1990, but the share has since declined, to 18% in 2013.

Unauthorized Immigration

This report’s estimates and projections of foreign-born residents in the U.S. comprise both legal and unauthorized immigrants. However, the numbers for each status group are not broken out separately except where stated.

In 2014, 11.3 million unauthorized immigrants lived in the U.S., according to the latest preliminary Pew Research estimate (Passel and Cohn, 2015). That estimate is essentially unchanged since 2009, as the number of new U.S. unauthorized immigrants roughly equals the number who voluntarily leave the country, are deported, convert to legal status or (less commonly) die.

According to Pew Research estimates going back to 1990, this population rose rapidly during the 1990s and peaked in 2007. The number of unauthorized immigrants declined during the recession of 2007-2009 before stabilizing. Illegal immigration from Mexico has been the main factor in these changes in the U.S. unauthorized immigrant population, though Mexicans remain by far the largest unauthorized immigrant group.

For more Pew Research analysis of unauthorized immigration, see


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