Majority of Immigrants Settle in Just a Few States

Immigrant influence in politicsWith around 41 million immigrants currently living in the United States—more than ever before in the nation’s history—immigrant influence might be underwhelming in its influence. According to a study by Pew Research Center that was published in May, the majority of immigrants end up settling in just a few states. The scenario might mean that while immigrant populations could hold a lot of sway locally, the group’s interests become diluted on a national scale.

According to Pew, the U.S. saw growth from 19.8 million immigrants living in the country in 1990 to 40.7 million immigrants living in the country in 2012. About one-quarter—11.7 million of these immigrants— are undocumented. During the period, immigrants represent a five-times-greater growth rate than U.S.-born residents—106.1 percent versus 19.3 percent, according to a Pew analysis of Census Bureau data.

By comparison, immigrants represented 7.9 percent of the U.S. population in 1990. At the time, California was the only state wherein more than 20 percent of its population was born outside the county. By 2012, immigrants made up at least one-fifth of the population in four states in the nation—New York, New Jersey and Florida join California in the distinction.

While immigrant numbers have grown over the past quarter century, the states where immigrants settle have largely remained the same. The top 15 states where immigrants resided in 2012, for instance, counted for 79 percent of the group. Since 1990, only the last state on the list of 15 states has changed— it was New Mexico in 1990, Colorado in 2000 and Virginia in 2012.

While the numbers represent an interesting study in demographics, implications also extend to the world of politics. According to a Washington Post blog, the numbers “represent a central piece of the future political puzzle for both parties.” For Republicans, especially, conventional wisdom says the shrinking proportion of white voters will only become more of an obstacle over time. Because of the predominance of just few states as residency destinations, however, immigrant voices might well remain muffled on the national stage.