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Reference > Population> Newest New Yorkers Printer Friendly Version
The Newest New Yorkers - 2000 Edition - Executive Summary
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Source Countries of the Foreign-born
Legal Pathways of Entry
Residential Settlement Patterns
Foreign-born in the New York Metropolitan Region
Socioeconomic Attainment of the Foreign-born
Impact of Immigration on the New York City's Population, Labor Force, and Housing

The passage of the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Amendments led to a surge in immigration to New York City and a decline in the share of European immigrants. Between 1970 and 2000, the total foreign-born population nearly doubled, from 1.44 million to 2.87 million, while the share of Europeans dropped, from 64 percent to 19 percent. Latin America was the largest area of origin in 2000, accounting for nearly 32 percent of the city's foreign-born, followed by Asia (24 percent), the nonhispanic Caribbean (21 percent), Europe (19 percent), and Africa (3 percent). Thus, New York City's foreign-born in 2000 have extremely diverse origins, in contrast to the overwhelming European origin of the foreign-born in earlier decades.

Source Countries of the Foreign-born

New York City's 2000 foreign-born population of 2.87 million was an all-time high and represented 36 percent of the city's population of 8 million. The Dominican Republic was the largest source of the foreign-born, numbering 369,200 or 13 percent of the total, followed by China (262,600), Jamaica (178,900), Guyana (130,600), and Mexico (122,600). Ecuador, Haiti, Trinidad and Tobago, Colombia, and Russia rounded out the city's ten largest sources of the foreign-born. The large number of nonhispanic Caribbean countries was indicative of their disproportionate presence in the city -- while they accounted for more than one-in-five of the foreign-born population in the city, they comprised just five percent of the nation's foreign-born.

The top sources of the foreign-born population for the U.S. differed markedly from those for New York City. Mexico was the number one source country in the U.S., accounting for nearly three-in-ten of the nation's 31 million foreign-born, followed by China, the Philippines, India, and Vietnam. Cuba, Korea, Canada, El Salvador, and Germany rounded out the top 10. The large Latin American and Asian presence in the U.S. foreign-born population is not mirrored to the same extent among New York City's foreign-born.

Nearly 43 percent of the city's foreign-born were recent entrants, defined as those entering in the 1990s; over 70 percent had arrived in 1980 or later. Europeans, with a long history of immigration to the city, were the longest resident foreign-born group, while the African foreign-born were the city's most recent entrants, with 56 percent entering the U.S. in the 1990s. Recent entrants comprised 49 percent of foreign-born Asians, 44 percent of Latin Americans, and 32 percent of nonhispanic Caribbean immigrants.

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Legal Pathways of Entry

U.S. immigration law determines the size and character of immigration and is key to understanding flows to New York City. The 1990 Immigration Act, the biggest change in immigration law since the landmark 1965 Act, continued to emphasize family reunification and the admittance of refugees and asylees. The 1990 Act, however, placed an increased premium on the entry of those with skills, and permanently put into place a program to diversify the source countries of immigration to the United States.

In the 1990s, 37 percent of immigrants to the city entered under the family preferences, down from 61 percent in the 1980s. This decline may be related to additional employment and diversity visas made available by the 1990 law and to the increased use of immediate relative visas.

The share of immigrants who entered as immediate relatives increased from 24 percent in the 1980s to 29 percent in the 1990s. The increase in immediate relative visas was related to the growth in naturalized citizens -- from 855,000 in 1990 to 1.28 million in 2000. With the spurt in naturalizations in the 1990s, more immigrants became eligible to bring in their spouses, minor children, and parents, using immediate relative visas. The increasing reliance on these visas may result in even larger flows in the future as immediate relatives are not subject to any numerical caps, and are allowed entry as soon as the visa processing is completed.

With more employment visas available for the highly skilled, these visas were used by 10 percent of immigrants to the city in the 1990s, compared to 8 percent in the 1980s. Employment visas were disproportionately used by Filipino, Korean, and Chinese immigrants.

Diversity visas accounted for about eight percent of all immigration to the city. These visas resulted in significant increases from Poland and Ireland, helped Bangladesh become a major source of immigrants, and have led to the emergence of Ghana and Nigeria on the New York immigration landscape.

Overall refugee flows to the city tripled in the 1990s, to 14,100 annually, primarily due to the dramatic increase in refugees from the former Soviet Union. Over eight-in-ten refugees to the city were from the Ukraine, Russia, Uzbekistan, Belarus, and other former Soviet republics.

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Residential Settlement Patterns

New York City's foreign-born population increased 38 percent in the prior decade, from 2.1 million in 1990 to 2.9 million in 2000. Over one million immigrants in 2000 made their home in Queens, or 36 percent of the total, while 931,800 (33 percent) lived in Brooklyn. Manhattan settled 452,400 or 16 percent of the city's immigrants, while the Bronx and Staten Island were home to 385,800 (13 percent) and 72,700 (3 percent), respectively.

Neighborhoods in the city with the largest number of immigrants were Washington Heights, home to 90,300 foreign-born residents, Flushing (86,900), Astoria (84,700), Bay Ridge-Bensonhurst (78,600), and Elmhurst (74,600). Neighborhoods that rounded out the top 10 were Gravesend-Homecrest, Flatlands-Canarsie, Jackson Heights, Corona, and Sunset Park-Industry City.

Major immigrant neighborhoods that saw the largest increases in their foreign-born population were Richmond Hill (due to increases in the Guyanese population), Flatlands-Canarsie (nonhispanic Caribbean groups), and Gravesend-Homecrest (Chinese, Ukrainians, and Russians).
On the other end of the spectrum, Crown Heights, Flatbush, and East Flatbush saw declines or minimal growth in immigrants, primarily due to the out-migration of nonhispanic Caribbean groups to other parts of Brooklyn.

As the major immigrant groups continued to grow in the 1990s, their residential enclaves began to expand outward. Population pressures in the Dominican enclave in northern Manhattan fueled the rapid growth of new neighborhoods across the Harlem River, in the west Bronx. A third Chinese enclave emerged in Sunset Park-Industry City in 2000, in addition to the existing enclaves in Flushing and in lower Manhattan's Chinatown. Jamaicans also saw an expansion of their original enclave in central Brooklyn into Flatlands-Canarsie. Similarly, the Guyanese enclave of Richmond Hill expanded into South Ozone Park and Woodhaven-Ozone Park. The Mexican presence, which is relatively recent, was most notable in Sunset Park-Industry City, East Harlem, and Corona.

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Foreign-born in the New York Metropolitan Region

While the impact of the post-1965 flow of immigrants from the Caribbean, Asia, and Latin America was initially felt in New York City, these immigrants have now established a major presence in the wider New York metropolitan region. In 2000, there were 5.2 million foreign-born residents in the region, which encompasses the five counties of New York City, an inner ring of 12 counties that are closest to the city, and an outer ring of 14 counties. While New York City was home to 55 percent of the region's foreign-born, the inner counties accounted for over one-third, while the outer counties settled just under 10 percent. Counties closest to New York City were disproportionately foreign-born. Hudson county, across the river from New York City, was 39 percent foreign-born – higher than any county in the region, except for Queens. The inner ring counties of Passaic, Union, and Bergen were over one-quarter foreign-born, while in the outer ring, Mercer (14 percent) and Suffolk (11 percent) counties had the highest percentage of immigrants.

With the region's native-born population in decline, immigrants have helped shore up the population of many counties and places in the region. Foreign-for-native replacement, which first took place in New York City, has been replicated in many of the inner counties. The flow of immigrants from Latin America, Asia, and the Caribbean, coupled with white outflows, has also altered the racial/Hispanic composition of the region. Again, New York City's experience of white nonhispanics comprising only a plurality has been mirrored in Hudson and Essex counties, and in many cities in the inner ring. Increasingly, post-1965 immigrants have also made their presence felt in the outer ring, leading to declines in the share of the native-born and of white nonhispanics; however, these groups still comprise the overwhelming majority in the outer ring.

Immigrants in the region tend to settle in lower income neighborhoods that are marked by high population densities, and a housing stock that is older, with proportionately more multifamily and rental units. This overall picture, however, masks the socioeconomic diversity that characterizes high immigrant areas –– many of these areas had social and economic characteristics that were at the upper end of the subregion's socioeconomic spectrum.

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Socioeconomic Attainment of the Foreign-born

Groups organize their households so as to maximize their strengths. Many groups with low levels of human capital made their households economically viable by having multiple workers in the household. This helped raise their household incomes close to the city median. For example, though just one-third of Mexicans had completed high school, due to the larger number of workers in Mexican households, incomes for these households were at 85 percent of the city median of $37,700. This strategy was adopted even by groups with high levels of educational attainment and earnings, such as Filipinos and Indians, resulting in median household incomes that exceeded the city average by 87 percent and 33 percent, respectively.

Latin American groups, in general, had low levels of socioeconomic attainment. Dominican and Honduran households were disproportionately female-headed, and just over four-in-ten Dominicans and Hondurans had completed high school; both males and females generally had low labor force participation rates and earnings. While a high percentage of Jamaican, Trinidadian, Haitian, and Guyanese households were also female-headed, labor force participation rates for females were among the highest in the city, while those for males were at the city average or higher. As a result, household incomes were approximately at the city median or higher, and poverty rates were below the city average.

Among European groups, Italian and Greek educational attainment was below the city average, but both groups were disproportionately self-employed and had among the highest earnings. Russians and Ukrainians, who are primarily recent entrants, had among the most favorable educational characteristics, but household incomes were below the median, partly a result of having fewer workers per household. However, poverty for the major European groups was at the city average or lower.

With respect to foreign-born Asians, Filipinos and Indians had high socioeconomic attainment and were trailed by Koreans, Chinese, Pakistanis, and Bangladeshis. Koreans had very favorable educational characteristics, but 70 percent were not proficient in English, leading many to choose self-employment as a path to upward mobility. Korean household income was at 93 percent of the city median and poverty was below the city average. While Pakistani household income ($36,500) exceeded that of the Chinese ($33,300), Pakistanis had a higher rate of poverty (26 percent versus 22 percent for the Chinese), partly due to their larger household size. Similarly, while Bangladeshi household income was on par with that of the Chinese, a larger share of Bangladeshis (30 percent) were in poverty, due to the large size of their households.

Differences in the socioeconomic attainment of immigrant groups are partly due to the disparate set of skills they bring to the U.S., and because some groups are overwhelmingly comprised of recent entrants, who have not had time to adjust to the U.S. labor market.

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Impact of Immigration on the New York City's Population, Labor Force, and Housing

Given the high level of out-migration from New York, immigrant flows mitigated catastrophic population losses in the 1970s, stabilized the city's population in the 1980s, and helped the city reach a new population peak of 8 million in 2000. Immigration has also had an indirect effect on the city's population growth by way of immigrant fertility, with foreign-born mothers accounting for over one-half of all births in the city. Overall, immigrants and their U.S.-born offspring account for approximately 55 percent of the city's population.

Immigrants also play a crucial role in the city's labor market, comprising 43 percent of all city residents in the labor force in 2000. In the core working ages – 25 to 54 years – between 40 and 50 percent of all city residents in the labor force were immigrants. With respect to industry, immigrants comprised a majority of employed workers in manufacturing, construction, and in many service industries.

Immigrants have also helped maintain the city's housing stock. Forty-eight percent of recently-occupied housing units were immigrant households. In the Queens neighborhoods of Elmhurst, Jackson Heights, and Woodside, over 80 percent of recently-occupied units were headed by an immigrant.

Immigration has reshaped the race/Hispanic composition of the city. While white nonhispanics were still the largest group in 2000, they comprised just 35 percent of the population, down from 63 percent in 1970. Among those under the age of 18, Hispanics were the largest group (34 percent), followed by black nonhispanics (29 percent), white nonhispanics (24 percent), Asian nonhispanics (10 percent), and those of multiracial nonhispanic backgrounds (3 percent) – a harbinger of the overall race/Hispanic composition of the city in the coming decades.

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