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Recession causes decline in Asian immigration

economyWASHINGTON – The Bureau of Census says immigration laws and the lackluster economy has resulted in a decline of the population growth of Hispanics and Asians in the U.S., causing the government to push back estimates on when minorities will become the majority by as much as a decade.
Data released early this month also showed that fewer Hispanics were migrating to suburbs and newly emerging immigrant areas in the Southeast, including Arkansas, Tennessee and Georgia, staying put instead in traditional gateway locations such as California.
The nation’s overall minority population continues to rise steadily, adding 2.3 percent in 2008 to 104.6 million, or 34 percent of the total population. But the slowdown among Hispanics and Asians continues to shift conventional notions on when the tipping point in U.S. diversity will come – estimated to occur more than three decades from now. Black growth rates remain somewhat flat.
Thirty-six states had lower Hispanic growth in 2008 compared with the year before. The declines were in places where the housing bubble burst, such as Nevada and Arizona, which lost construction jobs that tend to attract immigrants.
Other decreases were seen in new immigrant destinations in the Southeast, previously seen as offering good manufacturing jobs in lower-cost cities compared to the pricier Northeast. In contrast, cities in California, Illinois and New Jersey showed gains.
“Not just whites are staying put, but minorities are staying put and immigrants are staying put,” said Mark Mather, associate vice president of the nonprofit Population Reference Bureau, citing in part a declining economy that has locked the U.S. population largely in place.
The new projections, expected to be released later this year, could delay the tipping point for minorities by 10 years, given the current low rates of immigration, David Waddington, the Census Bureau’s chief of projections, told the Associated Press.
According to the latest data, the percentage growth of Hispanics slowed from 4.0 percent in 2001 to 3.2 percent last year; their slowed population growth would have been greater if it weren’t for their high fertility – nearly 10 births for every death.
Asians also slowed their population increases from 3.7 percent in 2001 to about 2.5 percent. Hispanics and Asians still are the two fastest-growing minority groups, making up about 15 percent and 4.4 percent of the U.S. population, respectively.
Blacks, who comprise about 12.2 percent of the population, have increased at a rate of about 1 percent each year. Whites, with a median age of 41, have increased very little in recent years due to low birth rates and an aging boomer population.
The migration shift could continue for a while, said William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution, citing the bursting of an unprecedented housing bubble in 2005-2006 that is helping reshape the economy.
“What this means is that the idea of creating new Asian and Hispanic enclaves in different parts of the United States will undergo a bit of a wall,” said Frey. “Those staying in these enclaves will be competing for jobs with long-term residents, while others will return to social support systems in major gateways.”
Six U.S. counties saw their minority populations become the majority, including Orange County, Fla., the nation’s 35th most populous county that is home to Orlando. Webster County in Georgia was majority-minority in 2007 but reverted back to white majority in 2008.
In all, about 309 of the nation’s 3,142 counties, or one in 10, have minority populations greater than 50 percent. Other counties that become majority-minority in 2008 were Stanislaus in California; Finney in Kansas; Warren in Mississippi; and Edwards and Schleicher counties in Texas.
There are 48 majority Hispanic counties nationally; the top 10 were all in Texas. The gateway cities of Los Angeles, New York, Miami, Houston and Chicago had the greatest number of Hispanics.
Seventy-seven counties are majority-black; all were in the South.
Atlanta edged past Chicago in the number of blacks, ranking second after New York City. They were followed by Washington and Philadelphia.
Honolulu County, Hawaii, was the only majority Asian county in the nation. New York City had the highest population of Asians, surpassing Los Angeles. Asians also numbered the most in San Francisco; San Jose, Calif.; and Chicago.
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