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Who are Minnesota’s new Americans? Here’s what the data tell us

Over the past 25 years, Minnesota has seen a substantial shift in its racial and ethnic makeup. The number of Minnesotans born outside the country has tripled, with immigrant and refugee communities now making up a critical component of the state’s economy — and a growing political force.

Today, about 84,000 Minnesotans are originally from Central America, while nearly 40,000 claim Somali ancestry, making Minnesota home to the largest population of immigrants from the Eastern African country in North America. Others have come from India, Vietnam, China and Korea, among other places.

Going forward, MinnPost's New Americans beat will examine the issues critical to these communities. To kick off that coverage, we've compiled the latest census data to create a demographic snapshot of Minnesota — a picture that reveals just how much the state has changed, and how it's likely to look in the future.

The data for the charts below come from American Community Survey estimates, collected by the U.S. Census Bureau.

How many immigrants live in Minnesota?

Minnesota has a smaller percentage of immigrant residents compared to the national average, but our population is rising rapidly. Nearly 1 in 6 children born in the state now have at least one immigrant parent, according to MN Compass, a project that tracks population data in Minnesota. Of the 404,168 foreign-born people living in Minnesota, about 47 percent are U.S. citizens.

From where did they move?

Many of Minnesota’s new Americans come from Mexico. This is the country of origin for about 68,000 Minnesotans – more than twice the second-highest represented country, Laos. People born in India, Vietnam and Eastern African nations also make up some of the state’s largest immigrant populations.

*Other Eastern Africa refers to countries in Eastern Africa besides Eritrea, Kenya and Ethiopia including — notably for Minnesota — Somalia.

How have these new arrivals impacted Minnesota's collective ancestry?

Not very significantly, it turns out. Despite the recent influx of immigrants from other parts of the world, Minnesota is still made up primarily of residents with European heritage. German, Norwegian, Irish and Swedish are among most represented.

How well do they speak English?

English is very much the predominant language spoken in Minnesota. Of the state’s nearly 5 million residents, about 4.5 million speak only English at home. Of the approximately 500,000 Minnesotans who speak a language other than English at home, less than half speak speak English less than “very well.”

What’s their employment rate?

About 65 percent of immigrants have jobs in Minnesota – roughly the same percent as U.S.-born residents.

How much money do they earn?

Minnesota's new Americans don’t make as much money as U.S.-born citizens. A significantly smaller percentage of immigrants fell into income brackets $35,000 and up in comparison to those born here.

What’s their median household income?

In what industries do they work?

A higher percentage of immigrants work in the manufacturing industry than U.S.-born (20 percent vs 13 percent). The data show manufacturing and educational services/health care/social assistance accounted for a combined 43 percent of the state’s foreign-born population.

How educated are they?

According to the survey data, about 26 percent of immigrants don't have a high school or equivalent degree, compared to 6 percent of U.S.-born Minnesotans. However, a higher percentage of foreign-born Minnesotans attained a master’s or professional degree than non-immigrants.

How many are married?

They are starting families at roughly the same rate as Minnesotans born in the U.S. However, immigrants had larger families on average than those born here.

Average family size

2.97 persons


3.81 persons

How many own homes?

Immigrants are less likely to own a home. About 75 percent of U.S.-born Minnesotans own homes vs 47 percent of foreign-born Minnesotans.

How many live in poverty?

They are more likely to live in poverty. The data show about 21 percent live below the poverty line. Another 24 percent of foreign-born Minnesotans fall into the low-income category, meaning those earning between 100 and 199 percent of the poverty level.

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Comments (16)

  1. Submitted by Ron Falknor on 10/07/2015 - 11:44 am.

    84,000 from Central America?

    The author needs a geography lesson. Mexico is in North America, not Central America.

    • Submitted by Matthew Brillhart on 10/07/2015 - 04:04 pm.

      Latin America?

      I’m sure he intended to say “Latin America”, which would include Mexico, The Caribbean, Central America, and South America (minus the English-speaking countries)

    • Submitted by Tom Nehil on 10/07/2015 - 04:18 pm.

      Central America

      The American Community Survey groups Mexico in Central America, along with Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama and “Other Central America.”

  2. Submitted by Steven James Beto on 10/07/2015 - 11:46 am.

    Welcome To All

    I applaud MinnPost for recognizing the need to provide coverage regarding new citizens. We are blessed to have them.

  3. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 10/07/2015 - 12:46 pm.

    I’ve always thought

    …the term “Central America” was more than a little bit fuzzy, so I’m inclined to think Mr. Falknor’s criticism a bit sharper-edged than necessary. I’m not aware of any sharp geographic, cultural and/or linguistic dividing lines between southern Mexico and Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, and their neighbors. I’m happy to see MinnPost provide at least some coverage for this growing segment of the population.

    I should also note that there’s been a fairly consistent effort on the part of Republicans in Congress to deny funding for… no, not Planned Parenthood this time… the American Community Survey, which provides the data on which this and many another article is based. The ACS provides a mountain of data that’s useful to everyone from journalists to county, state and federal officials when trying to plan and make policy decisions for the future.

    • Submitted by Rex Savage on 10/08/2015 - 07:22 am.

      A world without borders–dividing lines

      I couldn’t find any dividing lines between the United States and Mexico, either. That must explain how the lack of dividing lines in Central America leads to a rather massive influx across the non-existing lines on Mexico’s imaginary northern border. Speaking of non-existence, where’s the effort by the Progressives to pressure the governments forcing people to flee, to create better societies instead of sending them off across deserts filled with more criminals. Wouldn’t it be far better for all to be good, happy neighbors visiting each other’s cultures and sharing food and music and commerce. Or is that racist of me…or am I celebrating diversity….oh, it’s all so confusing. Either way, goof fences really do make good neighbors.

  4. Submitted by Matthew Brillhart on 10/07/2015 - 03:58 pm.

    Curious about that homeownership stat

    Something tells me that 75% of U.S.-born Minnesotans (including all men, women and children) probably do not own homes. I’m sure it is just a wording issue, but I’m not sure what that stat is supposed to represent. Percentage of households? Percentage of occupied units by ownership/rental status?

  5. Submitted by Lois Abraham on 10/08/2015 - 04:11 am.

    Curious about what kind of government support they get

    I have many friends who complain about how much immigrants financially drain US tax money. I am convinced it is not much. By group, how much guaranteed financial federal or state help do they get? How much volunteer help from churches, concerned people etc. I would like to be able to discuss this better when it comes up with friends.

  6. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 10/08/2015 - 10:14 am.

    “less than half speak English less than “very well”

    is tied to this statistic released today:

    “Minneapolis had the lowest graduation rates compared to 50 other major cities, according to a study released by a Washington-based education group.”

  7. Submitted by Alan Straka on 10/08/2015 - 11:47 am.

    Does speaking Minnesotan count as a foreign language?

  8. Submitted by FLORENCE NJOYI on 10/16/2015 - 11:18 am.

    Who are Minnesota’s new Americans? Here’s what the data tell us”

    Thank you Andy Mannix’s for this interesting and brilliant work on “ Who are Minnesota’s new Americans? Here’s what the data tell us”

    I am curious, is this a partial study and report about “Who are New Americans? Here is what the data tells us”. Looking at the sub topic “ from where did they move? I am disappointed that Andy specifically focused his descriptions and information on only one part of Africa “ Eastern African Nations”. In his graph he mentions only “Liberia “from West African. There is huge African immigrant population from West, North, Central and South in Minnesota. In my opinion, a lot of data about African Immigrants in Minnesota have been left out. We cannot use only information from one part of Africa (Eastern) to compare information with other populations as a continent . Leaving out huge African immigrant populations in Minnesotan such in your studies/report in my view gives a flaw in the data.

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