Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS
FMC Home Link PBS Program LinkFMC Book LinkViewer's Voices LinkInteractivity LinkTeacher's Guide
  Book Intro LinkBook Authors LinkBook Download LinkCredits Link
FMC Logo 1
  < Back to Contents
  Chapter One:

  Size and Growth Rate
  Life Expectancy
  Age Structure
  Population Drift
  Urban, Rural, Suburban
  Foreign Born
  Large Cities



FMC Logo 2  


Foreign Born

chart link spacer



The size of the foreign-born population in the United States fluctuated in response to changing immigration policies.
During the twentieth century, the nation recorded its highest percentage of foreign- born residents—14.7 percent of the U.S. population—in 1910. Although the foreign born constituted less than 10 percent of the population in 1999, they represented the largest number of foreign-born residents—nearly 26 million—in U.S. history. 

These foreign-born residents differed significantly from the nation’s native population. Compared with natives, the foreign-born population included fewer children and adolescents and more young adults. Hispanics and Asians constituted 68 percent of the foreign born but only 9 percent of natives. 

The educational level of the foreign born was distinctly lower: 35 percent of foreign- born adults did not have a high school education compared with only 16 percent of natives. The employment rate of the foreign born was similar to that of natives, but their earnings were much lower. More than a fifth of the foreign-born population was classified as poor compared with an eighth of the native population. As a group, the foreign born used more than a proportionate share of social services. 

These circumstances were not permanent, however. As individual immigrants remained in America, their social and economic well-being tended to improve rapidly. At the close of the century, for example, immigrants who came to the United States in the 1990s had very low rates of home ownership, but foreign-born residents who arrived before 1970 had a higher rate of home ownership than natives.

Chapter 1 chart 8

Source Notes
Source Abbreviations

HS series A 105, A 112, and A 6; SA 1999, tables 56 and 57; and A. Dianne Schmidley and Campbell Gibson, “Profile of the Foreign-Born Population in the United States: 1997,” Current Population Reports P23-195 (1999). For 1999 fig-ure, see CB Population Estimates Program, Population Division, “Quarterly Estimates of the United States Foreign-Born and Native Resident Populations: April 1, 1990 to July 1, 1999,” at (accessed August 22, 2000).


<Previous      Next>>  


PBS Program | Trends of the Century | Viewer's Voices | Interactivity | Teacher's Guide