“The U.S. is becoming more of a nation of immigrants every day—just as it was, but in very different ways, a century ago.
The share of immigrants in the U.S. population rose last year to 13.1%, from 13% in 2012—the highest level since the 1920s. As the Journal reported Friday, immigration is picking up as the U.S. economy improves, driven largely by Asian newcomers but also by a sizeable gain in Hispanic (including Mexican) arrivals. If these trends gain traction, the U.S.’s share of foreign-born is likely to keep climbing, extending a spectacular rise from just 4.7% in 1970.
But will the U.S. again become as immigrant-centered as it was at the dawn of the 20th century?
Back in 1890, nearly 15% of Americans were foreign-born, higher than today’s share, according to an analysis of census data by Bill Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution. And those immigrants hailed from very different corners of the globe.
Between 1880 and 1930, over 27 million new immigrants arrived, mostly from Italy, Germany, Eastern Europe, Russia, Britain, Canada, Ireland and Sweden. According to the Migration Policy Institute, this was the last huge immigration wave before the Mexican migration of the late 20th century.
Today another big shift is taking place.
After surging in the 1990s and early 2000s, Hispanic immigration to the U.S., especially from Mexico, is on a declining path. Yes, poverty and violence in Central America prompted a surge in child migrants to the U.S. in May and June, but that surge has subsided. As the U.S. economy accelerates and tighter labor markets fuel demand for cheap (and often illegal) labor, Mexican immigration (legal and unauthorized) could continue turning up. But demographers don’t expect Hispanic immigration to return to 1990s levels, and for three main reasons. U.S. borders are tighter than they used to be. In Mexico, economic opportunities are making it slightly more attractive to stay there. And declining fertility in Mexico means there are simply less 20- to 25-year-olds to come in the U.S. in the first place.
So, who’s taking their place? Asians.”