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Census pegs Minnesota's foreign-born population at 7.1%

Map showing immigrant percentages by population
Courtesy of US Census
Minnesota's share of population who are immigrants is actually below average.

The United States’ foreign-born population reached an all-time high of 40 million in 2010, the U.S. Census Bureau reported yesterday. And the recent arrivals — include naturalized citizens, permanent residents and other immigrants — are more likely than their native-born counterparts to live in large families and multigenerational households.

Contrary to popular wisdom, Minnesota is not a magnet for the new arrivals. The percentage of residents who are immigrants is about half the national average; just 7.1 percent of the state’s population is foreign-born.

Three-fourths of Minnesota’s 378,000 foreign-born residents arrived before 2005. Just 10 percent got here in 2008 or later.

The state drew less than 2 percent of immigrants arriving in the United States since 2005.

Nearly 13 percent of the U.S. population is foreign born, which is still lower than the Great Migration wave of the 1880s and 1890s, when the rate hovered above 14 percent, but is a dramatic increase from 1970’s historic low of 4.7 percent.

Neighbors have smaller percentages

Wisconsin’s and Iowa’s respective rates are 4.5 and 4.6 percent, while North and South Dakota’s are 2.5 and 2.7.

The data released Thursday comes from the 2010 American Communities Survey, which contained questions that were not asked during the census per se.

Almost 83 percent of the immigrants arrived between 2000, when the U.S. foreign-born population was 31 million, and 2006, when the influx slowed dramatically. Some 17 million are naturalized and 22 percent are non-citizens.

More than one in four live in California; more than half live there or in New York, Texas and Florida. More than half were born in Latin America or the Caribbean, 28 percent are from Asia, 12 percent from Europe and 4 percent from Africa.

A shift in home countries

At the start of the decade the highest percentage came from Central America [PDF, Page 2]. Immigration from that region fell sharply starting in 2008, while the number of arrivals from Africa and Asia surged.

According to the Washington, D.C.-based Migration Policy Institute, between 2000 and 2010, Minnesota’s foreign-born population grew by 45.3 percent. In comparison, the foreign-born population grew from 113,000 to 260,000 between 1990 and 2000, a difference of 130 percent.

The largest share of Minnesota’s immigrant population is from Asia, at 37 percent. One-fifth, or 20 percent, are from Africa, 11 percent from Europe and 27 percent from Latin America. At the national level, 4 percent is from Africa, 28 percent from Asia, 12 percent from Europe and 53 percent from Latin America.

The top three countries of origin among the foreign born in 2010 were Mexico, India and Vietnam, compared to Laos, Canada and Germany in 1990.

Larger households, with more generations

With an average of 3.4 members, foreign-born households are larger than native-born ones, which average 2.5 members, and more likely to contain children and grandparents. More than three-fourths of foreign-born families are composed of individuals related by birth or adoption, compared to two-thirds of native-headed households.

The foreign born are more likely to be married, 58 percent vs. 47 percent; to have children under the age of 18, 62 percent vs. 47 percent; and twice as likely to live in a multigenerational household, at 10 percent vs. 5 percent.

Immigrants are having more children, too. Fifty-seven of every 1,000 native-born women have had a child between 2009 and 2010, compared to 97 Africans, 75 Latin Americans and 62 Asians.

Most speak English

More than half of the foreign born either speak English at home or speak it well even though they speak another language at home. Labor force participation is nearly the same among the native and foreign born, with immigrants’ average household income slightly lower, at $46,000 a year vs. $50,000.  

Some 89 percent of native-born Americans have at least a high-school diploma, compared to 68 percent of newcomers. Only 53 percent of Latin Americans graduated from high school or college, compared to 84 percent of Asians and 88 percent of Africans.

The percentage of immigrants who live in poverty is 19 percent vs. 15 percent of the native born; immigrants are dramatically less likely — 66 percent vs. 87 percent — to have health insurance.

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