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George W. Bush's America: The foreign-born - 2002-04-18

English Feature #7-34440 Broadcast January 22, 2001

When George W. Bush assumed the office of the President of the United States two days ago, he became the leader of a country in which one out of every ten residents is foreign-born. Today on New American Voices - a profile of the foreign-born 10 percent of the American population.

According to a U.S. Census Bureau report released this month, there are 28.4 million people residing in the United States today who were born in other countries. Joseph Costanzo, a demographic statistician and expert on international migrations who worked on this report, says that while people continue to come to the United States from every country in the world, the greatest numbers now come from two regions.

"Generally, as we find in 2000, the late 20th century - early 21st century, the foreign-born population of the United States come primarily from Latin America and Asia. And about 50 percent of the foreign-born population in the year 2000 come from Latin America. More specifically, Mexico is certainly the largest country represented from Latin America in the United States. Other countries that are certainly well represented are Vietman, the Phillipines, El Salvador, India… Canada, the United Kingdom and Germany are also well represented in the United States, but have not come in as great numbers in recent years."

Joe Costanzo says that where newcomers to the United States settle depends to a great extent on where they come from.

"For example, Latin Americans tend to settle in the West and in the South, within Latin America we have quite a few people from the Carribean and South America who settle in the Northeast, in the Northeastern part of the United States, in major cities such as New York, and also in Boston."

Immigrants from Asia tend to gravitate to the Los Angeles and San Francisco metropolitan areas in California, although some also settle in the east coast urban centers of New York and New Jersey. Very few of the foreign-born - less than 5 percent - settle in non-urban area. Joe Costanzo says decisions as to where newcomers settle are usually driven - like immigration itself - by family connections and work opportunities. As to occupation, the Census Bureau report finds that there are distinct differences depending, again, on region of origin.

"For instance, the foreign-born from Asia are much more likely to be in managerial-executive positions than the foreign-born specifically from Mexico, but from Central America or Latin America in general. You do see some differences with the foreign-born from South America, they do tend to be more in managerial, executive, professional occupations."

The new Census Bureau report on the foreign-born population of the United States in the year 2000 offers some other statistical insights. More than one of every three foreign-born are naturalized citizens; the foreign-born live in family households that are larger than those of natives; two out of three foreign-born have graduated from high school; on the other hand, considerably more foreign-born than natives have less than a ninth-grade education; unemployment rates of foreign-born men and native men are similar (4.5. percent), but more foreign-born women (5.5 percent) are unemployed; almost seventeen percent of foreign born residents live below the poverty level, as compared with eleven percent of the native-born.

Joseph Costanzo admits that the new Census Bureau report provides only a limited snapshot of the foreign-born residents of the United States. A more detailed picture will emerge later this year, when the first data based on last year's nation-wide census of 120 million American households will be published. However, he says the present report uncerscores one basic characteristic of the foreign-born segment of the population of the country that George Bush will govern for the next four years.

"It is incredibly diverse. They are not a monolithic population. The advantage that George W. Bush has is that he comes from a state where there is a large population of Hispanics, many of whom are either foreign-born themselves or are second or third generation and have been in the United States for some years. So he's fortunately been exposed to a lot of the issues that at least some segments of the foreign-born face."

Next week we'll introduce you to one of the 6.8 million people born in Asia living in the United States - Master Ma, Chinese violinist and violin maker.