Saturday, May 28, 2011

An Earnings and Poverty Profile of US Immigrants

Stories of upward and inter-generational mobility have long animated the popular narrative describing how immigrants and their children integrate into US society, with poverty and access to gainful employment being powerful forces shaping how immigrants fare once they arrive in the United States. From national and state data we find some interesting facts: Nationally, immigrant men earn more than immigrant women, immigrant workers in West Virginia are more likely to earn $50,000 or more per year than the native born residing in the state, and California has the largest number of immigrants in poverty in the nation.

Explore the Migration Policy Institute's "Income and Poverty" fact sheets to learn more about the earnings of immigrant workers, variation in earnings by gender and region of birth, and the share of immigrant families living in poverty. Here is a peek at some of the updated national and state-level income and poverty stats for immigrants (and native born) in the United States:

* Nationwide, foreign-born workers earned less than native-born workers Among full-time, year-round workers, 35 percent of immigrants make less than $25,000 a year compared to 21 percent of native-born workers. On the opposite end of the earnings spectrum, 30 percent of immigrants earned $50,000 or more compared to 39 percent among the native born.

So where do immigrants fare best in relation to earnings in the United States? The states with the largest share of immigrants earning $50,000 or more per year are West Virginia (49 percent, compared to 28 percent of the native born), the District of Columbia (47 percent, compared to 59 percent of the native born), and Michigan (42 percent, compared to 38 percent of the native born).

* Immigrant men have higher median earnings than immigrant women Median earnings for immigrant men ($35,000) surpass those of immigrant women ($30,000) for those workers employed full-time, year-round. Among immigrants of both genders, naturalized citizens make more than noncitizens.

* Native born are less likely than foreign born to live in poverty Eighteen percent of immigrants live in poverty compared to 14 percent of the native born. Immigrants who are not US citizens are more than twice as likely to live in poverty (23 percent) than immigrants who have naturalized as US citizens (10 percent).

* Traditional immigrant-receiving states have the highest numbers of immigrants living in poverty: California (1.64 million), Texas (934,000), and New York (654,000). The top three states with the highest proportions of immigrants living in poverty are North Dakota (27 percent), Arkansas (27 percent), and New Mexico (26 percent).

* Sixteen percent of immigrant-headed families live in poverty The share of families living below the poverty threshold is even higher among immigrant-headed households with children under age 18 (22 percent).

The data are based on the US Census Bureau's 2009 American Community Survey (ACS) and the 2000 Decennial Census. To get started, go to the 2009 ACS/Census tool and select the state of your choosing (or click on the small map of the United States if you want national data).


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