New York City’s immigrant population has reached a new peak of more than 3 million, a number which would comprise the third largest city in the United States, bested only by New York itself and Los Angeles. This immigrant population has transformed New York from a city of primarily European origins to a place with no dominant racial, ethnic, or national group. With the native-born population in decline, immigrants have shored up the population of the City and of many counties and places in the New York metropolitan region. The relative youth and economic vitality of immigrants has also helped bring the City into an era of renewal and growth. These findings are presented in The Newest New Yorkers (2013 edition), a report published by the New York City Department of City Planning. The report presents a comprehensive portrait of immigrants in New York City, examining where the City’s foreign-born come from, their patterns of settlement, the demographic and socioeconomic characteristics of the City’s immigrants, the role of the foreign-born in the wider New York metropolitan region, the legal paths of entry of newly admitted immigrants, and the impact of immigrants on the City. Some of the findings are presented below.
Top Immigrant Groups
New York arguably boasts the most diverse population of any major city in the world. Since the passage of the landmark Immigration and Nationality Act Amendments of 1965, New York’s foreign-born population has more than doubled and the foreign-born share of the City’s population, which was 18 percent in 1970, has risen to 37 percent. The report shows that the largest immigrant group in the City continues to hail from the Dominican Republic, with 380,200 residents, followed by China with 350,200 immigrants. While the ranking of the City’s two largest immigrant populations has held since 1990, Dominican population growth in the last decade was 3 percent, compared with 34 percent for China. If these growth rates continue, the Chinese will likely be the City’s largest immigrant group in the next few years.
Immigrants from Mexico (186,300 residents) moved into third place, with a 52 percent increase over the last decade, and were followed by Jamaicans (169,200) and Guyanese (139,900). Ecuador, Haiti, Trinidad and Tobago, India, and Russia round out the top ten groups. Thus, the foreign-born in 2011 had diverse origins.
The surge in the foreign-born population has been accompanied by a decline in the European share of this population, from 64 percent in 1970 to just 16 percent in 2011. Latin America is now the largest area of origin, comprising nearly one-third of the City’s foreign-born population, followed by Asia (28 percent), and the non-Hispanic Caribbean (19 percent). Africa accounts for 4 percent. This large flow of immigrants from Latin America, Asia, and the Caribbean has reshaped the overall racial and ethnic composition of New York from a largely European white city to a diverse mix where no one group is in the majority.
Immigrant Settlement Patterns
While immigrants are dispersed throughout the City, the 2011 data show 1.1 million foreign-born resided in Queens, where they comprised nearly one-half of the borough’s population. Brooklyn was home to 946,500 foreign-born residents and together with Queens accounted for two-thirds of the City’s immigrants. Many of Brooklyn’s immigrants settled along a “horseshoe” formed by the B, Q and N train lines, while a sizable portion of immigrants in Queens continued to settle along the much celebrated Number 7 train line. The Bronx and Manhattan were home to 471,100 (15 percent) and 461,300 (15 percent) immigrants, respectively, while 98,400 (3 percent) lived in Staten Island.
Of the City’s neighborhoods, Washington Heights in Manhattan had the largest immigrant population (80,200), followed by Bensonhurst (77,700) in Brooklyn, and Elmhurst (77,100) in Queens. The neighborhood with the highest growth was Bushwick, which saw its immigrant population increase by over one-fifth between 2000 and 2007-2011. Areas in southwest Brooklyn, eastern Brooklyn, and eastern Queens also experienced substantial gains, reflected in neighborhoods such as East New York and Sunset Park, both in Brooklyn, and South Ozone Park in Queens. East and Central Harlem in Manhattan and Concourse-Concourse Village in the South Bronx also experienced high growth among the foreign-born population.
Immigration’s Effects on the City
Immigrants have been integral in maintaining the City’s record population numbers. Immigrant flows helped stabilize the City’s population throughout the 1970s and 1980s, were crucial in pushing New York’s growth over the 8 million mark in 2000, and have now propelled the City to its new population peak of 8.34 million in 2012.
The most recent data suggest that we may be in the midst of another phase in the City’s demographic history in which domestic migration (flows from other parts of the U.S.) plays a heightened role. Recently, the inflow of domestic migrants has increased and the outflow from the City has declined, greatly reducing the net domestic outflow of persons to the rest of the nation. Moreover, among those coming to New York City (domestic and international migrants), two-thirds are now domestic migrants, compared to one-half a decade earlier. This change in domestic migration is coupled with more modest gains through international migration. The relative balance of domestic losses and international gains, while present in just the last few years, represents a reversal of a longstanding pattern of net losses through migration.
The report also details the central role that immigrants play in strengthening the City’s economy. Immigrants comprise 47 percent of all employed residents across all major industries, including large concentrations in construction and services. Immigrants are disproportionately represented among those who start new businesses, providing a continuous infusion of economic vitality that serves the neighborhoods of New York. The immigrant population also drives the demand for housing, as close to one-half of all housing units that were occupied for the first time after 2000 had an immigrant householder. As the City stays economically attractive, it will continue to sustain its immigrant flow, which in turn acts to sustain its economy.
New York’s older age cohorts are projected to increase by more than 400,000 persons by 2040, and immigrants will be overrepresented in these age cohorts. The fact that the older foreign-born population is a product of the post-1965 immigration translates into a new phase of unprecedented diversity for the City’s older population. Models that are currently used to provide services to older New Yorkers will need to be adjusted to accommodate the needs of people from a multitude of backgrounds. The continued flow of working age immigrants could help ameliorate the costs associated with increased services that will be needed by the burgeoning older population.
The Newest New Yorkers Online
For the first time, New York’s Department of City Planning has created an interactive map depicting the settlement patterns for the City’s immigrant neighborhoods and where each of the City’s top 10 immigrant groups live. The interactive map, as well as the entire Newest New Yorkers report, is available online on the Department of City Planning’s Population Division website.