WASHINGTON, D.C. (Jan. 15, 2015) — The Migration Policy Institute (MPI) today released data profiles of unauthorized immigrants in the 94 U.S. counties with the largest such populations, including detailed information on population size, countries of origin, recency of arrival, educational enrollment and attainment, health insurance coverage, poverty levels and potential eligibility for the two deferred action programs launched by the Obama administration.
The profiles for the 94 counties, which are home to approximately two-thirds of the 11.4 million unauthorized immigrants in the United States, are the latest addition to a unique data tool that offers detailed information on this population at national and state levels, including those potentially eligible for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program or the recently announced Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) program. Using an innovative MPI methodology that takes U.S. Census Bureau data and imputes legal status for noncitizens, the tool also provides estimates of the age, gender, parental and marital status, top languages spoken, labor force participation and home ownership rates for unauthorized immigrants.
The county profiles reveal that the top five counties with the largest populations potentially eligible for relief from deportation through DACA or DAPA — Los Angeles, CA; Harris, TX; Orange, CA; Cook, IL; and Dallas, TX — account for 1.1 million people, over one-fifth of the total potentially eligible population nationwide, which MPI estimates at 5.2 million.
In findings that may have key implications for policymakers and service providers, the data also show significant variance in the shares of the overall unauthorized population potentially eligible for deferred action. MPI estimates that 64 percent of the unauthorized population in Imperial County, CA may be eligible for deferred action, compared to a national rate of 46 percent. Other counties with the highest potentially eligible shares include Lake, IL, 60 percent; Cameron and Hidalgo, TX, 59 percent and 58 percent respectively; and Tulare, CA, 58 percent. At the low end, MPI estimates that 27 percent of the unauthorized population in DeKalb County, GA is potentially eligible for deferred action.
“Our analysis shows that deferred action is likely to affect counties differently,” said Randy Capps, director of research for MPI’s U.S. programs. “In general those counties with the most Mexican immigrants among the unauthorized have the highest share who are eligible for DACA or DAPA, with the majority of these counties being in California and Texas. Mexican immigrants are the unauthorized group most likely to be well established in the United States and to have formed mixed-status families with unauthorized parents and U.S.-citizen or legal permanent resident children — characteristics that qualify them for the DAPA program in particular.”
Other interesting findings:
Regions other than Central and South America are the origins for a substantial number of the unauthorized in some counties. The largest number of unauthorized immigrants from Asia (80,000) resides in Queens, NY; the largest concentration from Europe (26,000) can be found in Cook, IL; and the largest number from Africa (13,000) lives in Bronx, NY. For countries of origin beyond Central and South America, Los Angeles, CA has the largest Korean unauthorized population (32,000); Queens, NY is home to the largest unauthorized Chinese population (26,000); Middlesex, NJ has the most unauthorized Indians (14,000); and Cook, IL is home to the largest unauthorized population from Poland (13,000).
While Mexico is the top country of origin for unauthorized immigrants in 78 of the 94 counties, there is significant diversity in some East Coast counties. Origin countries other than Mexico top the list in a number of East Coast counties, for example, Korea in Bergen, NJ; Brazil in the Boston area; El Salvador in Baltimore, Montgomery and Prince George’s, MD; and Colombia in Broward and Miami Dade, FL.
Unauthorized immigrants in agricultural counties in California and South Texas are more likely to be low educated, unemployed and in poverty compared to the national average. Unauthorized immigrants in these counties are also more likely to have resided in the United States for ten years or more, to have at least one U.S.-citizen child under 18, and to be eligible for DAPA or DACA. For example, in five California counties (Fresno, Kern, Merced, Monterey and Tulare) and Yakima, WA, between 70 and 80 percent of unauthorized immigrants lack a high school diploma — significantly higher than the national average of 50 percent. In these counties, around 90 percent of unauthorized immigrants are from Mexico, more than 40 percent are employed in agriculture and more than 40 percent (except for Monterey) live in families with incomes below the poverty level.
The poverty rate in the counties profiled is highest in South Texas. The border counties of Hidalgo (59 percent), Webb (58 percent) and Cameron (57 percent) all recorded nearly twice the national 31 percent poverty rate for unauthorized immigrants.
Health insurance coverage is relatively high in most California and New York counties. In all seven New York counties and 22 of the 24 California counties for which MPI could provide profiles, unauthorized immigrants have a higher insurance coverage rate than those in the United States overall.
Hospitality is the primary industry of employment for unauthorized immigrants in 37 of the counties profiled (14 of them in California and New York), while construction is the top industry for unauthorized immigrants in 28 counties (most of them in Texas, Florida and Georgia), and agriculture is the main industry of employment in 12 counties (11 of them in California).
The data tool is based on analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data from the 2012 American Community Survey (ACS) and the 2008 Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) by James Bachmeier of Temple University and Jennifer Van Hook of The Pennsylvania State University, Population Research Institute.
The tool, with profiles at the national, state and county level, can be accessed at: www.migrationpolicy.org/ programs/data-hub/ unauthorized-immigrant- population-profiles.
For profiles on the overall immigrant population in the United States, as well as data on remittances, refugees and international migration statistics, visit MPI’s Data Hub: www.migrationpolicy.org/ datahub.
The Migration Policy Institute (MPI) is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank in Washington, D.C. dedicated to analysis of the movement of people worldwide. MPI provides analysis, development and evaluation of migration and refugee policies at the local, national and international levels. For more on MPI, please visit www.migrationpolicy.org.
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