CMS Dialogue: Understanding the Population Dynamics of a Changing New York

Image c/o Suzanne DeChillo/The New York Times

On September 20, 2011, the Center for Migration Studies (CMS) hosted a briefing on the demographics of the foreign-born in New York by Joseph Salvo, Director of the Population Division at the New York City Department of City Planning and a member of the CMS board of trustees.  The presentation, titled “Understanding the Population Dynamics of a Changing New York,” highlighted the central and dynamic role that immigration continues to play in New York City and state, as well as the significant integration challenges facing many populations and communities.

Based on the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2009 American Community Survey, Salvo reported that in 2009, 26 percent of the more than 22 million residents in the New York metropolitan region were foreign-born, including 36 percent of New York City residents and nearly 25 percent of residents in the 12 inner counties surrounding the city. In addition, the foreign-born represented a remarkable 46 percent of all resident workers in New York City, holding substantial majorities of blue collar jobs.

Between 1970 and 2000, the percent of New York City’s foreign-born residents rose steadily from 18 to 36 percent, before leveling off after 2000.  Between 2000 and 2010, the total population of the city rose by 2.1 percent, to 8,175,133 and the number of foreign-born persons stood at about 3 million. Net international migration represented the largest source of increasing population in the City between 2000 and 2009.

The New York City foreign-born population remained highly diverse in 2009, with nationals of the Dominican Republic representing the largest single foreign-born group, (12 percent of the total), followed by the Chinese (11 percent), Mexicans (6 percent), and Jamaicans (6 percent).  According to the New York City Department of City Planning, these communities (except for Mexico) have had a substantial presence in New York since the 1970s.   A full 45 percent of the foreign-born came from countries other than top 10 source countries.  By way of comparison, Mexicans represent 30 percent of all foreign-born persons in the United States.  Salvo also reported that a lower percentage of “in migrants” to New York came from abroad (as opposed to from other U.S. States and Puerto Rico) in the 2007-2009 period (43 percent), than in the 1995-2000 period (nearly 50 percent).

Based on unpublished estimates by former Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) demographer Robert Warren, Salvo reported a significant decline in arrivals of unauthorized immigrants in New York State from 1990 to 2007, and a decline in the state’s overall unauthorized population between 2003 and 2007 from 786,000 to 740,000.

In 2009, the foreign born were more likely to be Limited English Proficient than natives (51 to 6 percent), and less educated (71 percent graduated from high school, compared to 86 percent of natives).  However, natives had a higher poverty rate (19.2 versus 17.8 percent) and lower male labor force participation rates (72 versus 85 percent).  Among the top-10 foreign-born groups, Mexican nationals had the highest labor force participation rate among males (95 percent), but the lowest rate among females (47 percent).  Among the same groups, Dominicans (30 percent) had the highest poverty rate, followed by Mexicans (26 percent) and the Chinese (23 percent).  Ecuadorans had the lowest poverty rate (10 percent).  The Dominican poverty rate remains high, although force participation among Dominican women has increased significantly in recent years.