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The foreign-born population of the United States numbered 31.1 million in 2000, according to Census 2000 results released today. This represents a 57 percent increase over 1990 and the continuation of an upward trend that began in the 1970s.
In releasing the sample demographic profile tables for the United States, based on census long-form data, the Census Bureau said the sharp increase in the foreign-born population continued a three-census upsurge — from 9.6 million in 1970 to 14.1 million in 1980 and 19.8 million in 1990.
The proportion of foreign-born over the 30-year span increased from 4.7 percent in 1970 to 11.1 percent in 2000. The 2000 proportion is the highest since 1930, when 11.6 percent of the population was foreign-born. From 1860 to 1920, the proportion of foreign-born ranged between 13 percent and 15 percent, reflecting large-scale immigration from Europe.
In 2000, 51.7 percent of the foreign-born population were from Latin America, 26.4 percent from Asia and 15.8 percent from Europe. Together, Latin America and Asia accounted for 78.2 percent of the foreign-born population, up from 28.3 percent in 1970.
"Along with this major change in the geographic origins of the foreign-born, we've seen a major change in their settlement pattern within the United States," said Census Bureau demographer Campbell Gibson. The proportion of the foreign-born living in the West and the South rose from 37.7 percent in 1970 to 65.5 percent in 2000.
The rise in the foreign-born population brought with it a sharp increase in the number of people 5 years old and over in the United States who spoke a language other than English at home: 47.0 million in 2000, up from 31.8 million in 1990. Of these, 21.3 million spoke English less than "very well," up from 14.0 million in 1990.
Among the population age 5 and over in 2000 who spoke a language other than English at home, 59.9 percent spoke Spanish, up from 54.5 percent in 1990.
Some other highlights of the national profile:
The demographic profile consists of long-form data highlights. Questionnaires were mailed to about 1-in-6 or 19 million households. Summary File 3, consisting of detailed data from these questionnaires down to block group or census tract levels, will be released by state, on a flow basis, from late June through September.
These statements are based on sample data and thus are subject to sampling variability.