U.S. Unauthorized Immigrant Total Dips to Lowest Level in a Decade

Number from Mexico continues to decline, while Central America is the only growing region

WASHINGTON, D.C. Nov. 27, 2018 – The number of unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. fell to 10.7 million the lowest level since 2004, according to new Pew Research Center estimates based on 2016 government data. The total, which is down from a peak of 12.2 million in 2007, is due almost entirely to a sharp decrease in the number of Mexicans entering the country without authorization.

While the number of unauthorized immigrants from Mexico declined by 1.5 million from 2007 to 2016, the Mexican border remained a regular pathway for entry by growing numbers of unauthorized immigrants from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. During the same period, the number of unauthorized immigrants coming from Central America increased by 375,000, making it the only birth region with an increase in unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. Mexicans remain about half the U.S. total of unauthorized immigrants.

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Among the 20 largest birth countries, unauthorized immigrant totals also grew from India and Venezuela between 2007 and 2016. Meanwhile, there were statistically significant declines from Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Korea and Peru.

The declining overall number of unauthorized immigrants is due mainly to a very large drop in the number of new unauthorized immigrants, especially Mexicans, coming into the country. Today’s unauthorized immigrant population includes a smaller share of recent arrivals, especially from Mexico, than a decade earlier. It also is likely that a rising share of unauthorized immigrants did not cross the border without documents, but instead arrived with legal visas and overstayed their departure dates.

Increasingly unauthorized immigrants are likely to be long-term U.S. residents: two-thirds of adult unauthorized immigrants have lived in the country for more than 10 years (up from 41% in 2007). Also, during this period the number of unauthorized immigrant workers fell, as did their share of the total U.S. workforce over the same period. The number of unauthorized immigrant men in the prime working ages of 18 to 44 also declined but not women in that age group.

As their typical span of U.S. residence has grown, a rising share of unauthorized immigrant adults – 43% in 2016 compared with 32% in 2007 – live in households with U.S.-born children.

Among the report’s other key findings:

• Unauthorized immigrants became a smaller share of U.S. foreign-born population. Compared with 2007, when their population was at its peak, unauthorized immigrants make up a smaller share of all U.S. residents (3% versus 4%) and of all immigrants (24% versus 30%).
• Unauthorized immigrants are less likely to be short-term residents. In addition to the rise in long-term residents, a smaller share of unauthorized immigrants have lived in the U.S. for five years or less. In 2016, 18% did, down from 30% in 2007. But Mexican unauthorized immigrant adults are among the most likely to be long-term residents with eight-in-ten living in the U.S. for more than 10 years in 2016.
• Most children living with unauthorized immigrant parents are born in the U.S.: Unauthorized immigrants live in 5.2 million U.S. households that include a total of 20.2 million adults and children. Most of the 9.5 million other people who live with unauthorized immigrants are U.S.-born minor and adult children.
• The number of adult unauthorized immigrant men declined over the decade, especially younger ones. The majority of unauthorized immigrants (54%) were male in 2016, compared with about half of legal immigrants (47%) and the U.S. born (49%). Unauthorized immigrants are somewhat less likely to be male than a decade ago (57% in 2007).
• The total U.S. labor force grew since 2007, but number of unauthorized immigrant workers declined. There were 7.8 million unauthorized immigrants ages 18 and older in the labor force in 2016 – the first time since 2006 that the number working or looking for work has declined significantly below 8 million. The decline was driven by a decreased number of unauthorized immigrant men in the labor force – about 5.0 million in 2016 compared with 5.6 million in 2007. The number of women in the labor force grew, to 2.8 million from 2.6 million.
• In all sectors of the civilian labor force, there are more U.S.-born workers than unauthorized immigrant workers. Yet unauthorized immigrants make up high shares of the labor force in some industries. For example, in 2016 they were 15% of workers in the agriculture industry and 13% of workers in the construction industry.

To read the full report: http://www.pewhispanic.org/2018/11/27/u-s-unauthorized-immigrant-total-dips-to-lowest-level-in-a-decade

Explore the U.S. unauthorized immigrant population trends from 1990 to 2016 for states of residence and largest regions and countries of birth: http://www.pewhispanic.org/interactives/unauthorized-trends/

Pew Research Center’s methodology for estimating the number of unauthorized immigrants in the country accounts for more than a decade’s worth of research and understanding about the international migration process.

The estimates for the U.S. unauthorized immigrant population presented in this report are based on a residual estimation methodology that compares a demographic estimate of the number of immigrants residing legally in the country with the total number of immigrants as measured by a survey – either the American Community Survey or the March Supplement to the Current Population Survey; see Methodology for more details.