Finding Local Census Data on Immigrants


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Special for the 2013 Specialized Reporting Institute on Immigration Reform

© Paul Overberg, database editor for USA TODAY

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  • Here is a table from the American Community Survey that shows all three concepts. It’s table B05002, named “PLACE OF BIRTH BY NATIVITY AND CITIZENSHIP STATUS.” This is a long name. What it means is something like this: “ Here’s a breakdown of wherever, with natives tallied separately from the immigrants. Natives are tallied by some regions of the US where they were born, and immigrants by whether they have become citizens or not.”
  • These three ACS questions offer key data about immigrants: -- Time since arrival. (Question 9: “When did this person come to live in the United States?” This helps to measure the pace of assimilation of immigrants. For example, an ACS table may show how many foreign-born people in a city have become citizens and tally them by when they arrived – before 1980, 1980-90, 1990-2000, after 2000. Calculating percentages, you could compare the pace of naturalization for immigrants in a city, and its state, or two different immigrant groups in the same city. -- Language spoken at home. (Question 14a: “Does this person speak a language other than English at home?” and Question 14b: “What is this language?” This gauges whether a person speaks English and how well when that person is at home, where that person is most likely to speak a language other than English. -- Question 14c: “How well does this person speak English?” Studies have shown that if someone is identified as speaking English less than “very well” (such as “well” or “not at all”), that person is likely to face difficulty doing simple things like reading an apartment lease or asking for directions.
  • The Census Bureau doesn’t ask about whether someone is in the U.S. legally, or what type of visa they may be here on. One big reason: It would greatly diminish response rates to the ACS, which would make it harder and more expensive to collect enough responses. The ACS form also doesn’t ask about voting or voter registration. It would be nice, but there’s no specific legal mandate that the Census Bureau ask that question. Also: Every extra question on a form tends to lower response rate. The Census Bureau would like to add a question about the place each person’s parents were born. A similar question was on the Census form until 1970. Tests for an ACS version have been successful.
  • All the immigration-focused questions can be tallied by many other properties of people, their households (or families) and their physical housing, either one by one or in multiples. In all, there are dozens of ACS tables laying out the results. They are called “detailed tables,” and they supply the pieces of other ACS products, things called “subject tables” and “comparison profiles” and “data profiles.” Each of these offers a different way to look at ACS data that may be useful, depending on your focus. Description of each type of product:
  • Table C05011, Period of Naturalization (Universe: Foreign-born population) 2011 American Community Survey 1-year estimates
  • B16008: CITIZENSHIP STATUS BY AGE BY LANGUAGE SPOKEN AT HOME AND ABILITY TO SPEAK ENGLISH FOR THE POPULATION 5 YEARS AND OVER (Universe: Population 5 years and over) 2007-2011 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates Table modified for space
  • B08111: MEANS OF TRANSPORTATION TO WORK BY CITIZENSHIP STATUS - Universe: Workers 16 years and over 2007-2011 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates
  • With some exceptions, tables are published for each year (called “1-year data”) for any place that has at least 65,000 people. For any place with more than 20,000 people, tables are published each year as a three-year data mashup, such as 2010-12. And for any smaller place, right down to small neighborhoods, tables are published every year as a five-year data mashup, such as 2008-12.
  • For a list of which places are included in 1-, 3- and 5-year data for each state:
  • For a list of which places are included in 1-, 3- and 5-year data for each state: For a list of how many areas of each kind are included in 1-, 3- and 5-year data:
  • American FactFinder ( is the Census Bureau’s main data appliance. It’s getting easier to use after several redesigns, but it’s still not simple for more that simple lookups.
  • Finding Local Census Data on Immigrants

    1. 1. Paul Overberg USA TODAY Finding Local Census Data on Immigrants Immigration From the Border to the Heartland: Reporting ‘La Reforma’
    2. 2. • How data is collected • Key terms, concepts • How good is this data? • How to get local data • Hands-on practice What we’ll cover
    3. 3. • Place of birth • Nativity • Citizenship status Learn these 3 key terms
    4. 4. • Place of birth: Where someone was born, in US (“same state,” “South,” etc.) or abroad (“Africa,” “Europe,”etc.) • Nativity: Was someone born in U.S./ born abroad of U.S. parents (native) OR Born abroad of non-citizens (foreign-born)? • Citizenship status: If foreign-born, have they become a citizen (naturalized)? 3 key terms
    5. 5. All three terms in one place ... B05002, 2011 ACS 1-year estimate El Paso Estimate Pct. Total: 665,577 100% Native: 496,761 75% Born in state of residence 365,436 55% Born in other state 115,222 17% Northeast 13,825 2% Midwest 21,971 3% South 25,256 4% West 54,170 8% Born outside U.S. 16,103 2% Foreign born: 168,816 25% Naturalized U.S. citizen 72,723 11% Not a U.S. citizen 96,093 14%
    6. 6. • Time since arrival? Years since foreign-born person arrived in U.S. • What language spoken at home? Where you’re most comfortable • How well does person speak English? Studies: Less than “very well” = problems (bus schedule, lease, etc.) Other key questions Photo by Flickr user CBP Photography
    7. 7. • Immigration/ visa status • Religion • Voting activity • Parent’s place of birth • Emigration What’s not available ... Photo by Flickr user CBP Photography
    8. 8. • Age, sex, race, family size/makeup, etc. • Education, enrollment, college major • Employment, income, disability, workplace sector, industry We can count foreign-born by ...
    9. 9. • Housing condition, costs, vehicles • Rent/own home • Income, poverty status, food stamps/welfare, Social Security, etc. ... and also count them by ...
    10. 10. Compare local and regional data Texas El Paso County, Texas El Paso city, Texas Total: 4,201,675 213,274 168,816 Not a U.S. citizen 2,807,738 125,926 96,093 Naturalized citizens: 1,393,937 87,348 72,723 Naturalized 2000 or later 676,840 31,393 25,933 Naturalized 1985 to 1999 488,708 36,443 29,505 Naturalized before 1985 228,389 19,512 17,285 Texas El Paso County, Texas El Paso city, Texas Of foreign-born: 100% 100% 100% Not a U.S. citizen 67% 59% 57% Naturalized citizens: 33% 41% 43% 2000 or later 49% 36% 36% 1985 to 1999 35% 42% 41% Before 1985 16% 22% 24%
    11. 11. Cross-check local sources El Paso Independent School District, 2007-11 Total: 295,444 Native population: 215,130 5 to 17 years: 59,048 Speak only English 24,081 Speak Spanish 34,246 Speak English "very well" 24,903 Speak English less than "very well" 9,343 Foreign-born population: 80,314 Not a U.S. citizen: 46,631 5 to 17 years: 3,287 Speak only English 251 Speak Spanish 2,855 Speak English "very well" 1,345 Speak English less than "very well" 1,510
    12. 12. Cross-check local sources El Paso metro area, 2007-11 Total Pct Total workers (16 and older): 316,685 Native 217,357 Foreign born: 99,328 Naturalized U.S. citizen 43,502 Not a U.S. citizen 55,826 Drove alone to work 251,199 79% Native 174,905 80% Foreign born: 76,294 77% Naturalized U.S. citizen 35,346 81% Not a U.S. citizen 40,948 73% Rideshare to work 35,158 Native 23,568 11% Foreign born: 11,590 12% Naturalized U.S. citizen 4,862 11% Not a U.S. citizen 6,728 12% Other 30,328 NA
    13. 13. • Each fall: 1-, 3- or 5-year data • Various formats • Foundation: Detailed table • Look for “B” or “C” in table name • American Factfinder How we get ACS data Photo by Flickr user CBP Photography
    14. 14. • Each fall for previous year • 1-year: Sept. • 3-year: Oct. • 5-year: Dec. Photo by Flickr user 5by7 When we get ACS data
    15. 15. School districts: • 1-year: 990 • 3-year: 3,434 • 5-year: 13,700 Counties: • 1-year: 825 • 3-year: 1,909 • 5-year: 3,221 Timeliness vs. completeness Raymundo Aguirre/
    16. 16. • Parts: Third-party sites • All: American FactFinder • Let’s explore! Where we get ACS data Photo by Flickr user jimmywayne
    17. 17. Let’s explore!