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U.S.: Number of Foreign-Born Hits Record Despite Slow Population Growth

Photo: Candidates taking the Oath of Allegiance at a Naturalization Ceremony.

46 million people in the U.S were born outside the country.

Washington, D.C. The number of foreign-born people in the United States rose more than 15% from 2010 to 2022, to just more than 46 million, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

That’s more foreign-born people — those who were not U.S. citizens at birth — than ever before, despite slow population growth.

“The increase probably could have been higher in the last decade than it was,” says demographer William Frey, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. “This increase hasn’t been as big as it’s been in some of the earlier decades, particularly 1990 to 2000.”

The U.S. foreign-born population rose from 19 million to 31 million, a hike of 12 million, from 1990 to 2000. By contrast, the same group increased just 6.2 million, from 40 million to 46.2 million during the 2010-2022 period.

The slowdown can be attributed to a couple of main factors, Frey says.

“The Trump administration reduced some of the immigration levels with various aspects of their policy, and then, of course, the pandemic,” he says. “But then, at the very tip of the end of this period, it started to go up again, but we’re not really going to see the bulk of that until next year or the year after, when they come out [with] the next couple of reports.”

Despite early indications that the immigration population grew at a faster rate in 2023, Frey expects slower overall population growth in the future.

“Especially among the younger population. In order to improve the labor force prospects, in order to generate more people coming into the labor force, we’re going to have to increase our immigration,” he says. “That’s very political, but I think a sensible economic way to look at it would be to make sure we continue to have reasonable levels of immigration.”

The Census numbers show that the education levels of foreign-born people living in the United States is increasing. In 2010, 68% of people in this group completed high school or higher, while in 2022, that number jumped to 75%.

In the states with the most immigrants — California (26.5%), New Jersey (23.2%), New York (22.6%) and Florida (21.1%) — foreign-born people account for more than one-fifth of the population.

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