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Number of Foreign-Born Up 57 Percent Since 1990, According to Census 2000

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:

  • Among the U.S. population 25 years old and over in 2000, 24.4 percent had a bachelor's degree or more, up from 20.3 percent in 1990. The proportion of the population with less than a high school diploma declined from 24.8 percent to 19.6 percent.
  • Among grandparents who lived with any of their grandchildren under 18 in the United States in 2000, 42 percent were responsible for most of the basic needs of one or more of these grandchildren. This is the first time this question was asked in a census.
  • The nation's average travel time to work for workers 16 and over (excluding those who worked at home) was 25.5 minutes in 2000, up from 22.4 minutes in 1990. The proportion of those who drove alone to work increased from 73.2 percent in 1990 to 75.7 percent in 2000, while proportionate declines were recorded among carpoolers (from 13.4 percent to 12.2 percent) and users of public transportation (from 5.3 percent to 4.7 percent).
  • Median household income in the United States in 1999, the last complete calendar year before Census Day, April 1, 2000, was $42,000, up from $39,000 in 1989. (The 1989 data are in 1999 dollars to adjust for inflation, based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics' April 2002 revision of the Consumer Price Index, CPI-U-RS.) Among U.S. households, 28.7 percent had incomes of less than $25,000 and 12.3 percent had incomes of $100,000 or more in 1999.
  • Meanwhile, the median value of owner-occupied, one-family housing units in the United States in 2000 was $119,600, up from $100,000 in 1990. (The data for 1990 are in 2000 dollars to adjust for inflation.) Among owner-occupied, one-family housing units, 9.9 percent were valued in 2000 at less than $50,000 and 9.4 percent at $300,000 or more.
  • The median monthly owner cost — based on mortgages, taxes, insurance and utilities — was $1,088 for the 70 percent of owner-occupied, single-family units with a mortgage, and $295 for the 30 percent of such homes that were not mortgaged.
  • Signaling a somewhat slower pace in new housing construction in the 1990s, Census 2000 found the proportion of housing units in the United States built in the preceding decade was 17.0 percent, down from 20.7 percent in the 1990 census.

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.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau | Public Information Office | | Last Revised: September 09, 2014