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

A look at how much immigration has changed Minnesota.

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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