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From Which Countries Are People Immigrating to California?

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OCTOBER 27, 2023

Ten and a half million immigrants call California home. California’s foreign-born population in 2021 stood at 27%. Forty-six percent of California’s children have at least one immigrant parent.

In 2021, 131,000 people arrived in California from other countries. California has outpaced New York, Texas, and Florida in immigration numbers, and in 2021 granted permanent resident status to 740,000 immigrants.

Including student and work visas, naturalized citizens, refugees, and asylum seekers, as well as those residing illegally, the Migration Policy Institute (MPI) reported that between 2017-2022 California granted legal status to 10,454,900 people from other countries.

Who Are the Newcomers?

Those of Asian descent make up 4,207,003 of California’s immigrant population. Europeans number 665,905, and Latin American born (including Mexico, South America, Central America, and the Caribbean) are the largest immigrant population totaling 5,151,971. An estimated 37% of all immigrants coming to California arrived from Mexico.

Of these new residents, their average age is between 18-64. A little more than 61% are married, most with children under the age of eighteen. More than half of them are naturalized U.S. citizens. More than 4 million children were born in California to immigrant parents in 2021.

Wherever exists legal immigration, there will be illegal immigration which means California is also home to millions of undocumented immigrants – more than 2 million according to the American Immigration Council.

Reasons For Immigration

The reasons people choose to immigrate are as varied as the immigrants themselves. Most often, the main reason is economic. Other reasons include:

  • Flight From Persecution
  • Reunification With Family
  • Education
  • Marriage
  • Work/Living Conditions

These reasons, among others, have been the driving force of immigration throughout history. The birth of the internet and the dreams of entrepreneurship or owning property or business cannot be overlooked as a force in recent immigration.

California is home to four of the largest cities in the nation which attracts not only the foreign-born, but natural-born citizens seeking opportunity. From 1920 to the late 1970s, those coming to California were mostly those from the Midwest and northern states. 

According to The New American Economy, there are 784,584 self-employed or entrepreneurial immigrants in California. They generated 20.2 billion in business revenue in 2014, and more than 1.4 million people are employed by firms owned by immigrants.

They also present a study that states 86.6% of undocumented men were employed at some point between 2012 and 2013. This suggests that people who arrive and live undocumented do so for work opportunities.

Ten countries of people including the Philippines, El Salvador, Vietnam, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, and Korea compromise the immigrant population in the United States. Mexicans are the largest immigrant group 24%, followed by India 6% and China 5%.

The Pew Research Center suggests that if the current immigration rate continues, immigrants and their children will account for 88% of the population growth in the U.S. in 2065. 

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OCTOBER 27, 2023