February 20, 2009

Story idea: How Newsday used census data

Excellent story by Olivia Winslow in today's Newsday on immigrant populations in the States. (2007 census data compares immigrant groups on LI)

Ms. Winslow used the just released Census Bureau data on immigrant groups as the basis for her story. She then went out and found someone to give a face to the data.

Proving once again -- and I don't know how many times I have made this point -- the Census Bureau has loads of great data that an enterprising reporter can use to develop a great story.

Winslow took the national data and then looked at the local data.

The nice thing is that the Census Bureau makes this kind of comparison -- national to local -- very easy. (Census Bureau Media Tool Kit.)

Also please notice, in the following press release from the Census Bureau Feb. 19 that the Bureau already compares the statistics of the foreign born with the native born.


And notice that nowhere in the press release, nor anywhere in the Census data, will you find any reference to a person's legal status in the United States. The Census Bureau does not get into that issue. As they will point out over and over, they are not a law enforcement agency. Their job is to gather data.

My only complaint about the Winslow article is that she could have included the links to the raw data in her online story. But I will bet that is the fault of the online editor and not the reporter.

Now tell me, how difficult would this story be to do in the DC area, especially with the large foreign-born populations we have? Too bad it has been done yet!

Shelly Lowe
Public Information Office
e-mail: pio@census.gov

Census Bureau Data Show Characteristics of the U.S. Foreign-Born Population

According to a new analysis of data about the U.S. foreign-born population from the 2007 American Community Survey (ACS), a higher percentage of people born in India have a bachelors degree or higher (74 percent) than people born in any other foreign country. Egypt and Nigeria had rates above 60 percent.

Based on 2007 ACS data, these figures come from new detailedcharacteristic profiles on the foreign-born population people who were not U.S. citizens at birth available by country of birth.

Meanwhile, among the nations foreign-born, Somalis and Kenyans living in the United States are the most likely to be newcomers, and Somalis are among the youngest and poorest.

These new selected population profiles highlight the diversity among the many different foreign-born groups in the United States, said Elizabeth Grieco, chief of the Census Bureaus Immigration Statistics Staff. This diversity is due in part to the way the various communities were established, whether it be through labor migration, family reunification or refugee flows.

The new data reveal the diversity among the 38.1 million foreign-born living in theUnited States in 2007, not only by where they were born, but also by where they live now.

For example, about 80 percent of the nations population born in China are high school graduates. In the New York metropolitan area, about two-thirds of those born in China are high school graduates, while in the metro area of San Jose, Calif., the figure rises to 93 percent.

Other findings available for foreign-born populations of 65,000 or more in areas with a total population of 500,000 or more include the following:

Country of Birth
Mexico tops the country of birth list with more than 11.7 million people. The next highest countries by birth include China (1.9 million), the Philippines (1.7 million), India (1.5 million), El Salvador and Vietnam (both at 1.1 million), and Korea (1 million). Cuba, Canada and the Dominican Republic round out the top 10 countries of birth.

Educational Attainment
Foreign-born from several African nations are among the likeliest to have graduated from high school, specifically from countries such as Nigeria, Kenya, Egypt and South Africa.

About 96 percent or more of theforeign-born age 25 and over from these nations are high school graduates.

Overall, about 85 percent of the total U.S. population, 68 percent of the U.S. foreign-born and 88 percent of the native-born are high school graduates.

About 27 percent of the foreign-born and about 28 percent of natives have bachelors degrees.

Household Income
Among the foreign-born, those from India, Australia, South Africa and the Philippines have the highest median household incomes. The median household income for U.S. residents born in India is $91,195. The foreign-born from Somalia and the Dominican Republic had some of the lowest median household incomes.

Median household income is $50,740 for the total population, $46,881 for the foreign-born population and $51,249 for the native population.

Europe is the source of some of the oldest foreign-born. U.S. residents born in Hungary (64 years) and Italy (63.1) share the distinction, statistically, of having the oldest median ages. The foreign-born from Greece, Germany and Ireland also have median ages of about 60.

U.S. residents born in Somalia have the youngest median age (26.8).

Nationally, the median age for the total U.S. population is 36.7. The total foreign-born population has a median age of 40.2 and the total native population has a median age of 35.8.

Year of Entry

The foreign-born from Somalia and Kenya are the most likely to have entered the United States in 2000 or later. Nearly 60 percent are in this category.

Overall, about 28 percent of the nations foreign-born entered in 2000 or later, 29 percent between 1990 and 1999, and 43 percent entered the United States before 1990.

Employment and Occupations

Approximately 81 percent of the foreign-born age 16 and over from Nigeria and Kenya are in the labor force. Nationally, about 65 percent of the U.S. population in this age group are in the labor force, compared with about 67 percent of the foreign-born population and 64 percent of natives.

U.S. residents born in India have the highest percentage of civilian-employed people working in management, professional and related occupations (69 percent). These occupations employ about 36 percent of the native civilian-employed U.S. population and 27 percent of the foreign-born.

The foreign-born from Liberia and Haiti have the highest percentage of civilian-employed people working in service occupations (at 40 percent and 39 percent respectively, the differences are not statistically significant). About 16 percent of natives and 23 percent of the foreign-born civilian-employed populations are working in service occupations.

The foreign-born from Jordan (40 percent) and Bangladesh (36 percent) are among the most likely to work in sales and office occupations (the differences between the two are not statistically significant). Among natives, 27 percent work in sales and office occupations, compared with 18 percent among the foreign-born population.

English Language Ability
About 97 percent of the foreign-born population from Mexico and the Dominican Republic age 5 and over speak a language other than English at home. Those born in Nicaragua, El Salvador, Armenia, Honduras, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Ecuador also have high rates of speaking a language other than English.

People born in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador age 5 and over are most likely to speak English less than very well. More than 70 percent of the foreign-born population from these countries identified themselves in that category.

On average, 52 percent of the foreign-born population, 2 percent of the native population and 9 percent of the total U.S. population speak English less than very well.

Among people for whom poverty status is determined, about 51 percent of residents born in Somalia are living in poverty. About a quarter of the population born in Iraq, the Dominican Republic, Jordan and Mexico are also living in poverty.

On the low end of the poverty spectrum for the countries of birth, U.S. residents born in the Netherlands and Ireland each have a poverty rate of about 5 percent.

About 13 percent of both natives and the total U.S. population are living in poverty, while about 16 percent of the foreign-born are.


The 2007 ACS estimates are based on a nationwide sample of about 250,000 addresses per month. In addition, approximately 20,000 group quarters across the United States were sampled, comprising approximately 200,000 residents. Geographic areas for which one-year data are available are based on total populations of 65,000 or more.

As part of the Census Bureaus re-engineered 2010 Census, the data collected by the ACS helps federal officials determine where to distribute more than $300 billion to state and local governments each year. Responses to the survey are strictly confidential and protected by law.

As is the case with all surveys, statistics from sample surveys are subject to sampling and nonsampling error. All comparisons made in the reports have been tested and found to be statistically significant at the 90 percent confidence level, unless otherwise noted. Please consult the data tables for specific margins of error. For more information go to http://www.census.gov/acs/www/UseData/index.htm
Editor's note: News releases, reports and data tables are available on the Census Bureaus homepage.
Go to http://www.census.gov and click on Releases.

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