Gabriel Dillard

published on May 17, 2019 - 2:18 PM
Written by Gabriel Dillard

The conventional wisdom on the immigrant population in California may not be reality, according to a new study from the Public Policy Institute of California.

The study “Immigrants in California,” found that the Golden State is home to almost 11 million immigrants, representing about a quarter of the U.S. foreign-born population. About 27% of California’s population was foreign-born — more than double the percentage of the country as a whole.

There are five California counties where foreign-born residents represent at least one-third of the populations. No Central Valley counties are among them: Santa Clara (39%), San Francisco (36%), San Mateo (35%), Los Angeles (34%) and Alameda (33%).

About half of California children have at least one immigrant parent.

Here’s where the national narrative may be skewed:

  • — More than half (52%) of California’s foreign-born residents are naturalized U.S. citizens, and an additional 35% have some form of legal status, including green cards and visas. Only about 14% of immigrants in California are undocumented. That number has declined by 500,000 to 1.5 million from 2010 to 2017.
  • —From 2000 to 2010, the state’s immigrant population growth slowed to 15%, compared to 37% in the 1990s. In the last 10 years, the increase was only 6%. The decline in international immigration has been a factor in California’s slowing population growth.
  • — The majority of recent arrivals to California hailed from Asia. About 56% from 2010 to 2017 came from countries including China, the Philippines, Vietnam and India. About 29% came from Latin America in the period.
  • — About 69% of immigrants in California are bilingual, speaking English proficiently, while only 10% speak no English.
  • — About 72% of Californians have a positive view of immigrants, citing their hard work and job skills as a benefit to the Golden State. About 23% believe they are a burden. Another 84% believe there should be a way for undocumented immigrants to stay in the country legally.


The sources for that data comes from the American Community Survey and decennial data from the U.S. Census Bureau

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