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Immigrant City

by Chaleampon Ritthichai, Feb 01, 2005
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New York has always been a city of immigrants. Even the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001 and the economic downturn that followed did not deter immigrants from moving to the city.

New York saw a net gain of 339,000 immigrants from April 2000 to July 2003. The foreign born population in New York City is now at all time high at 3.2 million out of the city’s population of 8 million, according to a new study by the Department of City Planning.

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The report attempts to examine the countries of origin of the foreign-born, their paths of entry, residential distribution, and demographic and socioeconomic characteristics. But the reason immigrants are drawn to New York remains the same.

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“Immigrants keep coming here,” co-author of the report Joseph Salvo told the Daily Times. “The reason they keep coming here is opportunity.”

Countries of Origin: The Emergence of Mexican Immigrants

In earlier decades, the overwhelming majority of the foreign-born population in New York City was from various part of Europe. But in the 2000 census European immigrants comprised only 19 percent.

The Dominican Republic sent the most immigrants to New York City, numbering 369,220 or 13 percent of the total, followed by China (262,600), Jamaica (178,900), Guyana (130,600) and Mexico (122,600).

Even though Mexico has long been the origin of most immigrants in the United States, in the past Mexican immigrant preferred other cities to New York City as their destination. According to the 1990 census, Mexican ranked 17th with 32,689 of population in the city. City demographers expected the actual growth of Mexican immigrants at 200,000.

Rounding up the top ten are Ecuador, Haiti, Trinidad and Tobago, Colombia and Russia.

Generally, immigrants from non Hispanic Caribbean countries are moving disproportionately to New York. While they account for five percent of the nation’s foreign-born population, they comprised of more than one-fifth of the city’s foreign born.

Foreign-born Population by Country of Birth, New York City, 1990 and 2000
2000
1990
Growth, 1990-200
Rank
Number
Rank
Number
Number
Percent
Total/Foreign Born
-
2,871,032
-
2,082,931
788,101
37.8
Dominican Republic
1
369,186
1
225,017
144,169
64.1
China
2
261,551
2
160,399
101,152
63.1
Jamaica
3
178,922
3
116,128
62,794
54.1
Guyana
4
130,647
6
76,150
54,497
71.6
Mexico
5
122,550
17
32,689
89,861
274.9
Ecuador
6
114,944
10
60,451
54,493
90.1
Haiti
7
95,580
7
71,892
23,688
32.9
Trinidad & Tobago
8
88,794
12
56,478
32,316
57.2
Colombia
9
84,404
8
65,731
18,673
28.4
Russia
10
81,408
*
*
*
*

* The USSR was ranked 5th in the 1990 with 80,815 residents. It if were a single entity in 2000, it would have ranked 4th with approximately 164,000 persons.

Legal Pathway of Entry

Traditionally, immigrants were admitted to the country mainly under family reunification or refugee and asylum clauses. But the 1990 Immigration Act allowed immigrants to enter the country through working visas and diversity visa (visa lottery).

In the 1990s, only 37 percent of immigrants coming to the city entered under the family preference, down from 61 percent in the 1980s. Ten percent of immigrant, mostly Filipino, Korean and Chinese immigrants, used employment visas to stay in the country.

While accounting for only 8 percent of immigrants entering the country, visa lottery program helped increase the numbers of immigrants from Poland, Ireland, Bangladesh, Ghana and Nigeria.

The number of refugees in the city tripled in the 1990s due to the massive influx of refugees from the former Soviet Union countries.

The report did not offer numbers of undocumented immigrants.

Residential Settlement Pattern

Over one million immigrants, around 36 percent of the total, settled in Queens, while 33 percent live in Brooklyn, 16 percent in Manhattan, 13 percent in the Bronx and 3 percent in Staten Island.

Washington Heights has the most immigrants (90,300) followed by Flushing (86,900), Astoria (84,700), Bay Ridge-Benson hurst (78,600) and Elmhurst (74,600). Other neighborhood in the top ten included Graves-Homecrest, Flatland-Canarsie, Jackson Heights, Corona and Sunset Park Industry City.

Some immigrants chose to settle outside of the New York City. In 2000, there were 5.2 million immigrants in the New York Metropolitan Region, which includes the city’s five counties, an inner ring of 12 counties closest to the city and outer ring of 14 counties. While the inner counties accounted for one-third of immigrants, the outer counties accounted for less than one-tenth.

But counties close to the city have a disproportionately higher immigrant population. For example, 39 percent of population in Hudson County, New Jersey are foreign born.

Socioeconomic Attainment of the Foreign-born

Regardless of their income or educational background, immigrant families usually have more than one worker, making their household income close to the city median ($37,770).

Household Income and Poverty Status by Country of Birth,
New York City, 2000
Household Income
Poverty
Public Assistance*
Median
Ratio: Subgroup to Total
Avg. workers per household
Persons for whom poverty status has been determined
Percent in Poverty
Total Households
Percent with PA income
Total/New York City
$37,700
1.00
1.1
7,853,336
21.1
3,020,980
7.5
Native-born
$39,900
1.06
1.0
4,994,540
21.5
1,816,243
7.8
Foreign
$35,000
0.93
1.2
2,858,796
20.4
1,204,737
7.0
Dominican Republic
$25,300
0.67
1.1
369,002
30.9
142,042
18.6
China
$33,320
0.88
1.5
261,002
21.7
95,086
4.5
Jamaica
$38,500
1.02
1.3
173,195
14.6
80,990
6.0
Guyana
$41,960
1.11
1.5
128,992
13.4
48,054
5.5
Mexico
$32,000
0.85
1.8
123,265
32.0
32,201
12.5
Ecuador
$36,000
0.95
1.5
111,337
21.9
37,276
8.0
Haiti
$36,000
0.95
1.3
96,032
19.1
40,694
5.9
Trinidad & Tobago
$36,300
0.96
1.3
92,737
16.5
40,036
4.9
Colombia
$35,000
0.93
1.3
83,288
20.2
31,705
6.2
Russia
$28,000
0.74
1.0
83,941
22.2
37,624
8.3

* Households with at least one person receiving public assistance income

While just one third of Mexican immigrants had high school degree, their household has in come that is 85 percent of the city’s median because multiple family members are in the work force.

Generally, Latin Americans had low level of social economic attainment. Only one in ten Dominicans and Hondurans had completed high schools, and both males and females had low labor force participation. On the other hand, Jamaican, Trinidad, Haitian, Guyanese households, headed mostly by females, have one of the city’s highest female labor force participation.

Some groups, such as Korean immigrants, have advanced education but 70 percent were not proficient in English. As a result, many chose to start their own business. Self-employment is also popular among some European immigrants such as Italians and Greeks, many of whom do not have high school education.

Impact of Immigration of New York City

The report concluded that immigration help to stabilize population growth and comprised for 40 percent of all city resident in labor force. Many industries such as manufacturing, construction and service industries rely heavily on immigrant laborers. Finally, immigrants also help maintain the city’s housing stock, 48 percent of recently occupied housing units are immigrant households.

An immigrant from Bangkok, Thailand, Chaleampon Ritthichai is the editor of The Citizen.


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