Tag Archives: demographics

Comparing US states by their unauthorised immigrant population

California is a common rhetorical example used to illustrate the harms of immigration (unauthorised or otherwise) in the US. People point to California’s runaway government debt, poor public school system, and rising rates of social disorder/crime as the inevitable consequences of more liberal immigration policies. I thought it might be worth pulling together a 50-state view (plus the District of Columbia) to see what we can generalise from a ranking of jurisdictions by their unauthorised immigrant populations.

The Pew Research Center has provided some estimates of the unauthorised immigrant population by state in 1990 and 2010 (see tables A3 and A4), and I combined these with US Census Data of the population by state to calculate the share of unauthorised immigrants in each state’s population in 1990 and 2010. It was then a simple step to calculate how much the unauthorised immigrant population has grown or shrunk over the intervening 2 decades.

In 1990, these were the top 10 states (and DC) by share of unauthorised immigrants in their population:

  1. California
  2. Texas
  3. District of Columbia
  4. Arizona
  5. Nevada
  6. New York
  7. Florida
  8. Illinois
  9. New Mexico
  10. New Jersey

In 1990 the bottom 10 were:

  1. Tennessee
  2. Wisconsin
  3. Missouri
  4. Mississippi
  5. Indiana
  6. Iowa
  7. South Carolina
  8. Kentucky
  9. Alabama
  10. Ohio

And as of 2010, here are the top 10 states by share of population:

  1. Nevada
  2. California
  3. Texas
  4. New Jersey
  5. Arizona
  6. Maryland
  7. District of Columbia
  8. Florida
  9. Georgia
  10. New Mexico

The bottom 10 are:

  1. South Carolina
  2. Alaska
  3. South Dakota
  4. Missouri
  5. Ohio
  6. Vermont
  7. North Dakota
  8. Montana
  9. Maine
  10. West Virginia

While I’m not sure what life in these United States was like in 1990, I do know that in 2010 I would much prefer to live in any of the top 10 states ranked by the proportion of unauthorised immigrants in their population than I would prefer to live in the bottom 10. (In fact, I almost live in the District of Columbia: it’s literally walking distance from my current home, though to be fair, the parts of DC that are most accessible to me are also the swankiest. I am quite sure I would not have wanted to live in the District in 1990, however.)

Another way to rank the states would be how much their unauthorised immigrant population has grown. Here are the top 10 states ranked according to the absolute percentage point change in their unauthorised immigrant population:

  1. Nevada
  2. New Jersey
  3. Texas
  4. Maryland
  5. Georgia
  6. Arizona
  7. Oregon
  8. North Carolina
  9. New Mexico
  10. Utah

Meanwhile the bottom 10 (the bottom 3 are actually negative, i.e. the proportion of unauthorised immigrants fell over these 20 years):

  1. New Hampshire
  2. Missouri
  3. Wyoming
  4. South Dakota
  5. West Virginia
  6. Maine
  7. Alaska
  8. Montana
  9. North Dakota
  10. Vermont

Again, I would much prefer to live in most any of the top 10 states than I would in the bottom 10. I lived in New Hampshire/Vermont for the first 4 years of my time in the US (I lived actually on the border of those two states) and as beautiful as they are in the autumn, I can’t say they have much to offer otherwise, especially in the depths of winter (though it would also depend on how much you love skiing or other winter sports). Obviously there is cause and effect here: nice states attract more immigrants. But it does seem clear that if unauthorised immigrants “kill the goose that lays the golden egg” by laying waste to the land of these attractive states, it isn’t terribly apparent from these rankings.

There is one way to slice the data that might be more favourable to restrictionist conclusions, though: we can rank states by the percentage change in their unauthorised immigrant population. So Alabama, with 0.12% of its population unlawfully present in 1990 versus 2.5% in 2010 would have a (2.5 – 0.12) / 0.12 = 1920.2% increase. The low base effect means that these rankings are somewhat suspect, but for your benefit, here they are (along with all the other data I used to construct the rankings above):

State/District 1990 % of pop 2010 % of pop %age point change over 20 years % growth over 20 years
Alabama 0.12% 2.50% 2.38% 1920.19%
Iowa 0.18% 2.50% 2.32% 1288.42%
Kentucky 0.14% 1.80% 1.66% 1227.28%
Tennessee 0.21% 2.20% 1.99% 972.98%
Indiana 0.18% 1.80% 1.62% 897.95%
Ohio 0.09% 0.90% 0.81% 876.24%
North Carolina 0.38% 3.50% 3.12% 828.54%
Wisconsin 0.20% 1.80% 1.60% 780.52%
Arkansas 0.21% 1.80% 1.59% 746.22%
South Carolina 0.14% 1.20% 1.06% 736.71%
Mississippi 0.19% 1.60% 1.41% 724.15%
Georgia 0.54% 4.40% 3.86% 714.40%
Nebraska 0.32% 2.40% 2.08% 657.64%
Hawaii 0.45% 3.10% 2.65% 587.10%
Maryland 0.73% 4.60% 3.87% 528.33%
Pennsylvania 0.21% 1.30% 1.09% 517.91%
Connecticut 0.61% 3.40% 2.79% 458.81%
Michigan 0.27% 1.50% 1.23% 457.72%
New Jersey 1.23% 6.20% 4.97% 404.50%
Oregon 0.88% 4.30% 3.42% 388.88%
Minnesota 0.34% 1.60% 1.26% 366.74%
Missouri 0.20% 0.90% 0.70% 360.52%
Utah 0.87% 3.80% 2.93% 336.46%
Oklahoma 0.48% 2.00% 1.52% 319.41%
Washington 0.82% 3.40% 2.58% 313.67%
Delaware 0.75% 3.00% 2.25% 299.70%
Kansas 0.61% 2.40% 1.79% 296.41%
Colorado 0.91% 3.60% 2.69% 295.34%
Louisiana 0.36% 1.40% 1.04% 293.88%
Nevada 2.08% 7.20% 5.12% 246.08%
Virginia 0.81% 2.70% 1.89% 234.22%
New Mexico 1.32% 4.30% 2.98% 225.74%
Rhode Island 1.00% 3.00% 2.00% 201.04%
New Hampshire 0.45% 1.20% 0.75% 166.22%
Massachusetts 0.91% 2.40% 1.49% 162.53%
Texas 2.65% 6.70% 4.05% 152.91%
Arizona 2.46% 6.00% 3.54% 144.36%
Florida 1.85% 4.50% 2.65% 142.59%
Illinois 1.75% 4.10% 2.35% 134.33%
Idaho 0.99% 2.20% 1.21% 121.48%
District of Columbia 2.47% 4.50% 2.03% 82.07%
West Virginia 0.28% 0.50% 0.22% 79.35%
New York 1.95% 3.20% 1.25% 64.49%
South Dakota 0.72% 1.00% 0.28% 39.20%
Wyoming 1.10% 1.50% 0.40% 36.08%
California 5.04% 6.80% 1.76% 34.90%
Maine 0.41% 0.50% 0.09% 22.79%
Alaska 0.91% 1.00% 0.09% 10.01%
Montana 0.63% 0.50% -0.13% -20.09%
North Dakota 0.78% 0.50% -0.28% -36.12%
Vermont 0.89% 0.50% -0.39% -43.72%

One interesting reaction to all these numbers might be that two decades is too little time to truly assess the long-run impact of unauthorised immigration on a state’s economy and society. So we should be looking for states like Nevada, Texas, New Jersey, Maryland, etc. to become “wastelands” like California over the next decade or two (or at least see some pernicious effects such as bankrupt local governments or increasingly horrid public schools). Then again, many of these states were already in the top 10 in 1990, so it’s not all that clear that we shouldn’t be seeing these supposed effects already.

If you have any thoughts or reactions, feel free to share in the comments. I’ve also uploaded the same numbers in Excel spreadsheet format for ease of use. Hopefully these figures can drive some interesting conversation going forward; it’s quite plausible that I or another Open Borders blogger may return to them in the future.

Robots or Immigrants?

There’s been some buzz lately about falling birthrates in the United States.

The U.S. birthrate plunged last year to a record low, with the decline being led by immigrant women hit hard by the recession, according to a study released Thursday by the Pew Research Center.

The overall birthrate decreased by 8 percent between 2007 and 2010, with a much bigger drop of 14 percent among foreign-born women. The overall birthrate is at its lowest since 1920, the earliest year with reliable records. The 2011 figures don’t have breakdowns for immigrants yet, but the preliminary findings indicate that they will follow the same trend. (via Marginal Revolution)

Here’s Ross Douthat’s take and Megan McArdle’s take, both very eloquent, and thoughtful, and worried, as is Bryan Caplan‘s take. Douthat mentions immigration obliquely but doesn’t think it’s a solution to demographic decline:

But deeper forces than the financial crisis may keep American fertility rates depressed. Foreign-born birthrates will probably gradually recover from their current nadir, but with fertility in decline across Mexico and Latin America, it isn’t clear that the United States can continue to rely heavily on immigrant birthrates to help drive population growth.

This isn’t quite convincing, because the US wouldn’t need high immigrant birthrates to drive population growth. High levels of immigration would suffice to drive population growth. McArdle goes into more detail about the possibility of more immigrants as a solution to demographic decline:

In theory, you just export capital to younger societies, or import young immigrants.  But there are some problems with this theory, the largest of which is that the whole world is getting older almost all at once.  Every country is facing (or soon will) the same looming demographic pressure.

That’s an exaggeration. It’s true that birthrates are falling virtually everywhere in the world, but they’re still pretty high in Africa and many other developing countries (with India, 20.60 births per 1,000 persons, well above the United States, 13.68). There will be plenty of young immigrants to draw in for a long time yet. McArdle argues that there are limits to investing a broad as a strategy for securing the future: Continue reading “Robots or Immigrants?” »