Changing face of immigration, nationally and in Minnesota

educated, organizedMinnesota’s immigrant population — people born outside the United States — is only about 7.5 percent of Minnesota’s population. Nationwide, immigrants make up 13.9 percent of the population, so Minnesota is below average. The number of immigrants is growing, according to a September report from Pew Research Center, which projects an increase to 17.8 percent of the national population by 2065. That would be even higher than the historic high point of 15 percent immigrant population in the early 20th century.

One week of immigration news: because it’s important. And because it’s important, during this Give to the Max week, please consider donations to the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota and the Advocates for Human Rights, two organizations doing good and important work. Monday: Immigrant hunger strikes; Tuesday: Dogs before children; Wednesday: Deportation numbers and the latest ruling on the president’s plan; Thursday: Broken immigration courts; Friday: Changing face of immigration, nationally and in Minnesota.

Nationally, Mexican immigrants make up 28 percent of the total, other Latin American immigrants are another 24 percent, Asian immigrants are 26 percent, Europeans and Canadians make up 14 percent, with all others accounting for 8 percent. Mexican immigrants still make up the largest group in Minnesota, but we also have big immigrant groups from Southeast Asia and Eastern Africa. Mexican immigrants make up only 16 percent of the total number in Minnesota, though that still makes them the largest immigrant group. Immigrants from Laos, Vietnam and Thailand make up an additional 14 percent, and immigrants from East African countries comprise 11 percent of Minnesota’s immigrant population, according to MinnPost’s figures.

The Pew report projects that immigration will shift during the coming decades.

“[T]he share of the foreign born who are Hispanic is expected to fall to 31% by 2065. Meanwhile, Asian immigrants are projected to make up a larger share of all immigrants, becoming the largest immigrant group by 2055 and making up 38% of the foreign-born population by 2065.”

Asians already make up the largest group of recently-arrived immigrants.

The shift is already being seen in undocumented border crossings. Associated Press reports:

“More than 257,000 immigrants from countries other than Mexico were apprehended at the border during the 2014 budget year, including more than 68,000 unaccompanied children and tens of thousands of family members. It was the first time that immigrants from other countries outnumbered those from Mexico.”

The Pew report also found that recent immigrants are better-educated, poorer, and somewhat older:

“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%.”

MinnPost analyzed census data for Minnesota immigrants, and found that higher percentages of immigrants than U.S.-born Minnesotans lacked a high school diploma — but also that higher percentages of immigrants than U.S.-born Minnesotans had advanced degres:

“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.”

About the same percentage of immigrants and U.S.-born Minnesotans were working, but immigrants earned less and were more likely to be below or near the poverty line.

A 2013 report by the state demographic center, In the Shadow of the Boomers: Minnesota’s labor force outlook, warns that an aging work force will negatively impact Minnesota’s economic future:

“One way to create a different future for Minnesota would be to attract higher numbers of migrants to participate in our labor force than anticipated, so that the state doesn’t experience the projected labor force growth reductions. To maintain our present .5% annual labor force growth rate, our state would need to attract more than 63,000 additional net migrants by 2020, more than 108,000 in the five years following that, and sharply increasing numbers thereafter…”

As baby boomers age, Minnesota, like the rest of the country, needs immigrants to keep the state’s economy growing.

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