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Reference > Population > Newest New Yorkers Printer Friendly Version
The Newest New Yorkers - 2000 Edition - Overview & Introduction
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The Newest New Yorkers: Overview

The Newest New Yorkers, 2000: Immigrant New York in the New Millennium provides a comprehensive description of New York City's foreign-born population. It examines the countries of origin of the foreign-born, their legal paths of entry, residential distribution, and demographic and socioeconomic characteristics. This is the latest volume in The Newest New Yorker series, which began in 1992 with the publication of The Newest New Yorkers: An Analysis of Immigration to New York City in the 1980s, and continued with The Newest New Yorkers, 1990-1994 and The Newest New Yorkers, 1995-1996. It continues a tradition of making detailed information on the foreign-born population available to policy makers, program planners, and service providers, to help them gain perspective on a city that continues to be reshaped by immigrants.

In 2000, New York City had 2.9 million foreign-born residents, the largest number in its history. These immigrants have come from a multitude of nations that is unmatched by any other city. Most U.S. cities in the northeast and midwest saw their era of peak population in 1950, after which many experienced large declines associated with suburbanization and economic changes that resulted in central city job losses. While New York also experienced declines as a result of these forces, its status as a magnet for immigrants allowed it to overcome these problems and ultimately reach a peak population of more than 8 million residents in 2000.

The importance of immigration in stabilizing New York City's population is only exceeded by the huge impact it has had on the city's racial and ethnic composition. With the passage of the 1965 amendments to the Immigration and Nationality Act, the countries from which immigrants originated shifted from southern and eastern Europe to Latin America, Asia, and the Caribbean. As a result, New York City experienced a dramatic shift in its racial composition, from a population that was majority European to one where no group comprises a majority.

New York City's demography is not static, but a dynamic process defined by the ebb and flow of people. As some people leave the city for points in the region and beyond, the city's population continues to be replenished by the flow of new immigrants. These demographic processes result in a unique level of diversity: 43 percent of the city's 2.9 million foreign-born residents arrived in the U.S. in the previous ten years; 46 percent of the population speaks a language other than English at home; in just 30 years, what was primarily a European population has now become a place with no dominant race/ethnic or nationality group. Indeed, New York epitomizes the world city.

Impact of Immigration Law on the Country Composition of Immigrants
It has often been said that the laws governing immigration are a "gate" through which immigrants must successfully navigate. Changes in immigration law have a differential impact on groups; such changes could create a path of entry for one group or could inhibit the entry of others. The growth in non-European immigration, for example, was primarily a result of the 1965 amendments to the Immigration and Nationality Act. With the enactment of this law, immigration quotas that favored Europeans were replaced with a system that placed all countries on an equal footing, greatly increasing flows from Latin America and Asia. The 1965 law primarily favored those with family ties with U.S. residents, the entry of those who had needed occupational skills, and the admittance of refugees and asylees. The most significant change since 1965 occurred with passage of the 1990 Immigration Act. This law continued to favor family reunification and the entry of refugees and asylees, but greatly increased the allotment for those in skilled occupations. It also put in place a permanent program to diversify the source countries of immigrants to the United States. These expanded immigration opportunities provided by the new law have resulted in substantial growth in the city's foreign-born population.

In 2000, the Dominican Republic, China, Jamaica, Guyana, and Mexico were the largest sources of immigration to New York City. Except for Mexico, these countries have had a substantial presence in New York since the 1970s. Marked levels of naturalization among these groups are likely to create a larger base of citizen-sponsors that may further increase immigrant flows from these sources. At the same time, other nations are gaining a foothold in New York City, successfully navigating the maze of classes embedded in the law. Bangladesh, Nigeria, and Ghana are just three of many nations whose citizens have obtained legal permanent residency by virtue of the diversity visa program. These "seed" immigrants are likely to bring in their kin, resulting in further flows from these countries. Employment has been the hallmark of immigration from the Philippines, India, and China. Finally, it was their status as refugees that permitted the large influx from the former Soviet Union, placing Russia and the Ukraine among the top foreign-born groups.

What's New in this Report?
Like its predecessors, The Newest New Yorkers, 2000 uses the latest available data to draw a picture of New York City's immigrant population. However, while earlier reports used administrative data from the Immigration and Naturalization Service on the flow of newly admitted immigrants to New York City, this report primarily uses decennial census data on the resident foreign-born population. The main advantage is that the analysis is based on all foreign-born residents of New York in 2000, as opposed to just those who are newly admitted to the city. An added incentive to use census data is its depth and richness of information on the foreign-born, which cannot be matched by administrative data. The wide range of demographic and socioeconomic information available in the census enabled us to compile detailed socioeconomic profiles for each of the major foreign-born groups in 2000. In comparison, earlier reports had minimal information on the socioeconomic characteristics of recently admitted immigrants. However, as with previous publications, this report does use administrative data to examine how newly admitted immigrants navigate immigration law, by analyzing the legal paths of entry used by immigrants. Administrative data on newly admitted immigrants are the only source of such information and allow us to understand the impact of U.S. immigration law on the size and character of immigration to the city.

For the first time, we have expanded our focus beyond New York City to include a detailed analysis of the spatial distribution of the foreign-born in the 31 county New York Metropolitan Region. Increasingly, the counties surrounding New York City are undergoing changes that the city first experienced several decades ago. Nearly 45 percent of the foreign-born in the region live in the 26 counties that are outside of New York City. Some of these immigrants once lived in New York City and have migrated out. However, the availability of housing in smaller cities outside of New York City has led to the development of new immigrant enclaves that have fostered immigration directly to these places. The Newest New Yorkers, 2000 examines the growth of the foreign-born in the region over the past century, and details settlement patterns in 2000.

In the final chapter of the report, we examine the demographic impact of immigration. We begin with an analysis of the components of population change -- natural increase (births minus deaths) and net migration (the balance of persons who enter and leave the city). We quantify the components of population change in New York City by using an approach that factors in an assumption for undercount, starting with the 1970 census. After deriving an adjusted population for the 1970, 1980, 1990 and 2000 censuses, we evaluate the role of immigration in population change. In addition, we examine the 2003 population estimates as a way of illustrating the dynamic nature of the city's population. We also illustrate the impact of immigration on housing at a neighborhood level by asking what percentage of recently occupied housing units is occupied by immigrant households. This information is key to an understanding of how immigrants maintain housing in the city's neighborhoods and can inform planning issues.

Structure of this Report
The Newest New Yorkers, 2000 has seven chapters. Following this Introduction, Chapter 2 presents information on the size and country composition of the foreign-born population, with a special emphasis on change over the last thirty years. Once a city largely dominated by European immigrants and their descendants, New York now boasts the most diverse mix of people anywhere. New York City's myriad mix of groups from Latin America, Asia, the Caribbean, and Europe now dominate its foreign-born population.

Chapter 3 uses administrative data on newly admitted immigrants that were made available by the Office of Immigration Statistics (OIS) at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. These data provide a unique look at the legal paths of admission of newly admitted immigrants (i.e., those obtaining green cards). While immigrant admissions continue to be closely related to family linkages with U.S. residents, changes in immigration law have created new pathways to admission. These changes have resulted in more skilled persons being admitted by way of employment visas and the appearance of new countries through the diversity visa pool (for nations under-represented in U.S. immigration flows). The overall effect has been to further diversify the sources of immigration and the mix of nations represented in the city's foreign-born population. In addition, the collapse of the Soviet Union resulted in large flows of refugees from that region to New York.

Chapter 4 examines the spatial distribution of New York's foreign-born population, highlighting the top immigrant neighborhoods in the city. While immigrants were dispersed throughout the city, the neighborhoods with the largest immigrant populations were Washington Heights, Flushing, Astoria, Bay Ridge-Bensonhurst, and Elmhurst. Each of these neighborhoods had more immigrants than the entire borough of Staten Island. This chapter also examines the leading immigrant groups in each borough and in major neighborhoods across the city. Finally, for the major foreign-born groups, the top neighborhoods of residence are tabulated and mapped.

Since immigration is heavily tied to kinship networks, a neighborhood that is home to immigrants tends to attract more recent entrants as well, resulting in ethnic enclaves. Each borough has distinct enclaves, dominated by one immigrant group. In Manhattan, the Dominican enclave was centered in the northern sections of the borough around Washington Heights, while the Chinese were concentrated in Chinatown to the south; Mexicans had a large presence in East Harlem. In the Bronx, there was a notable Dominican community in the western sections of the borough, while the Afro-Caribbean community was concentrated to the north, in Wakefield and Williamsbridge-Baychester. In Brooklyn, the Chinese were concentrated in Sunset Park-Industry City, Russians in the southern sections of the borough, while the largest Afro-Caribbean concentrations in the city were in the central Brooklyn neighborhoods of Flatbush, East Flatbush, and Crown Heights. In Staten Island, there was an emerging Mexican enclave in the northern section, while Castleton Corners-New Springville in the west was home to Koreans, Indians, Chinese, and Filipinos; Italians were the largest group in the southern section of the borough. Finally, there is Queens, which contains the largest and most diverse concentration of immigrants in the city. Along the number 7 line, there was a mix of immigrants from Asia and Latin America in neighborhoods such as Sunnyside, Woodside, Jackson Heights, and Elmhurst. Farther east, Corona was heavily Dominican, while Flushing had a notable Chinese, Korean, and Indian presence. Other large concentrations included Russians in central Queens, the Guyanese in Richmond Hill, and Afro-Caribbean groups in southeast Queens.

Chapter 5 offers, for the first time in the Newest New Yorker series, an analysis of immigrants in the 31 county New York Metropolitan Region, a recognition that immigration has evolved into a regional issue. Indeed, nearly 45 percent of immigrants in the region live in the 26 counties outside New York City. In earlier decades, counties adjacent to the city were secondary destinations of settlement, as many post-1965 immigrants migrated out of the city and made their home in the suburbs. These counties are now primary destinations of settlement as many newly arrived immigrants bypass the city and settle directly in other parts of the region. The analysis divides these 26 counties into those that are adjacent to the city (inner counties) and those that are farther away (outer counties).

Many places in the inner counties are now undergoing a process that New York City first experienced nearly four decades ago, when the 1965 amendments to the Immigration and Nationality Act increased the level and diversity of immigration. As in New York City, immigrants in the inner and outer counties tend to live in neighborhoods that have older, multifamily, rental units that produce high population densities. Immigrant enclaves in the region tend to be heavily minority, with below-average incomes. However, immigrant areas span the economic spectrum; many immigrant neighborhoods have a socioeconomic profile far superior to other neighborhoods in the region. With the region's native-born population in decline, immigrants have helped shore up the population of many counties in the region. Foreign-for-native replacement, which first took place in New York City, has been replicated in many of the inner counties. A number of counties and cities in the region have also experienced racial and ethnic transitions associated with immigration that have long been a hallmark of New York City.

Chapter 6 provides a comprehensive look at measures of demographic (age and sex composition); household (family type, tenure, and overcrowding); social (educational attainment, year of entry, and English proficiency); economic (median household income, poverty status, and public assistance); and labor force characteristics (labor force participation, occupation, and class of worker) for New York City's top 20 foreign-born groups. These profiles provide perspective on the level of distress in a community and are crucial in formulating policies and programs that better fit the needs of specific groups.

Latin Americans, in general, had low levels of socioeconomic attainment. But by having multiple workers in their households, Colombians, Ecuadorians, and Mexicans raised their household incomes, increasing the economic viability of their households. While educational attainment and earnings for nonhispanic Caribbean groups were below the city average, they had household incomes that were either close to the city median (Trinidadians, Haitians, and Jamaicans) or above the city median (for the Guyanese), thanks to their higher labor force participation. European groups had the lowest levels of labor force participation -- partly due to the fact that they are disproportionately in the older age groups -- but had among the highest earnings. While Italians and Greeks had household incomes that exceeded the city median, incomes were below the median for Ukrainians, Russians, and Poles, partly a result of having fewer workers per household. However, poverty for the major European groups was at the city average or lower. Foreign-born Asians had a range of socioeconomic attainment, with Filipinos and Indians at the high end, trailed by Koreans, Chinese, Pakistanis, and Bangladeshis. The vast differences between groups in their demographic, social, and economic characteristics were partly a function of the set of skills they brought to the U.S. and due to the fact that some groups were comprised disproportionately of recent entrants, who tend to have less favorable socioeconomic characteristics.

Chapter 7 examines the impact of immigration on the city's population, labor force, and housing from a city planning perspective. First, the city's populations for 1970, 1980, 1990, and 2000 were adjusted to reflect the undercount in the decennial censuses which allowed for the re-estimation of net migration for the 1970-80, 1980-90, and 1990-2000 periods. While our earlier work has established that immigration is crucial to maintaining the city's population, the new estimates of net migration provide a truer context for quantifying the direct effect of immigration. Population growth is also indirectly affected by immigration: Over one-half of all births in New York City in 2000 were to foreign-born women. Thus, both immigration flows and immigrant fertility helped stabilize New York City's population.

Immigrants also played 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. Immigrants comprised a majority of employed workers in manufacturing, construction, and in many service industries. The foreign-born also had a major impact on the city's housing: 48 percent of recently occupied housing units could be tied to immigrant households. Immigration has radically reshaped the race/Hispanic composition of the city and current flows are likely to further alter the city's racial and ethnic profile.

As with earlier reports in The Newest New Yorker series, this report contains a detailed set of appendix tables that permit a closer examination of many points made in the main text. These tables often provide information for countries that are not included in the analyses of top foreign-born groups. Included here are data from the tape files of the Office of Immigration Statistics, as well as data from the 2000 decennial census.

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