Expanding exposure to immigrants, 1990 to 2014

An extraordinary aspect of American life has been the rapid demographic expansion of the immigrant presence in the past 25 years.

The Center for Immigration Studies published today maps showing by county 1990, 2000 and 2014 the immigrant share of adult population, in five categories (lowest, under 4.9%; highest, over 20%). Maps also show the percentage increase in immigrant share (lowest, <5%; highest, over 300%). Point your cursor on a county and a detailed profile of immigrants comes up.


In 1990, immigrants were at least 20% of the adult population (18-plus) in just 44 counties; by 2014 they were at least 20% of the adult population in 152 counties.

In 1990, only one out of eight Americans lived in a county in which at least 20% of adults were immigrants; by 2014, nearly one in three Americans lived in such counties.

Since 1990, the immigrant share of adults has more than quadrupled in 232 counties. (These counties mostly had 1990 immigrant shares of 1 – 3%).

Where this expansion grew on a very old foundation, such as in New England, there has been little if any push-back from native-born Americans. Where an immigrant population was very small at the outset, push-back has probably been concentrated. This is particularly so where a large undocumented immigrant population rose to high visibility.

An example of this dynamic is California vs. Arizona. Activists against undocumented immigrations arose in the 1980s. In California, where immigration is deeply rooted, involving many sources such as Japan and Armenia, activists only succeeded in swinging the state from Republican to Democratic in the 1990s. Arizona has been the most aggressive of states in repeatedly passing statutes and a constitutional amendment restricting undocumented immigrants with no serious political penalty.

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