This report describes the race and Hispanic-origin composition of the foreign-born population in the United States in 2007 and compares it to that of the total and native-born populations.1 It shows that the foreign born have a pattern of race and Hispanic origin reporting that is markedly different from the native population.
New waves of immigrants began arriving in the United States following amendments to the Immigration Act in 1965 that abolished the national origins quota system, resulting in a shift away from traditional source countries to a greater diversity in the origins of the foreign born. Unlike during the great migration of the late 1800s and early 1900s when the majority of immigrants to the United States came from countries in Europe, most of the immigrants who arrived after 1970 were from countries in Latin America and Asia. This change is clearly reflected in the foreign-born population through time. In 1960, 75 percent of the foreign-born population were born in Europe. In 1980, 39 percent were born in Europe, while 52 percent were born in Latin America or Asia.2 By 2007, 80 percent of the foreign-born population were born in either Latin America or Asia (Figure 1).
Over the last 40 years, immigration from Latin American and Asia has been the major force changing the racial and ethnic composition of the American population. The influx of newcomers from these regions has resulted in rapid growth in the number of Hispanics and Asians in recent decades. For the three groups with the oldest historical roots in the United States—non-Hispanic Whites, non-Hispanic Blacks, and American Indian and Alaska Natives—natural increase, not immigration, has been the main source of growth since 1970. The shift in immigrant source countries, combined with modest differences in natural increase among the different race and Hispanic-origin groups, has resulted in increased racial and ethnic diversity, which is reflected in the decreasing proportion of non-Hispanic Whites through time.3 The proportion of the total population that was White, not Hispanic was 83 percent in 1970 and 76 percent in 1990. By 2007, 66 percent of the total population was White, not Hispanic.4
The foreign born, through their own diverse origins, will continue to contribute to the racial and ethnic diversity of the United States. How they translate their own backgrounds and report their adopted identities have important implications for the nation’s racial and ethnic composition. This report discusses the race and Hispanic origin of the foreign born, first separately as distinct concepts, then combined to highlight the unique racial and ethnic patterns reported by this population. Race by the largest countries of birth and detailed Hispanic origin by nativity are also discussed. The proportion of foreign born in each race group and detailed Hispanic origin is also shown. Unless otherwise stated, the information presented in this report is based on data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau in the 2007 American Community Survey (ACS).5
1 The terms native and native born are used interchangeably in this report.
2 Gibson, Campbell and Kay Jung. 2006. “Historical Census Statistics on the Foreign-Born Population of the United States: 1850 to 2000.” U.S. Census Bureau: Population Division Working Paper, Number 81. Available on the U.S. Census Bureau’s Web site at <www.census.gov/library/working-papers/2006/demo/POP-twps0081.html>.
3 Perez, Anthony Daniel and Charles Hirschman. 2009. “The Changing Racial and Ethnic Composition of the U.S. Population: Emerging American Identities.” Population and Development Review, 35:1-51.
4 According to the American Community Survey, in 2007 the proportion of the total population that was White alone, not Hispanic was 66 percent while the proportion that was White alone or in combination with one or more other race groups, not Hispanic was 67 percent.
5 This report includes data for the 50 states and the District of Columbia.