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Sustainable Society:  A society that balances the environment, other life forms, and human interactions over an indefinite time period.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Urban Bloat

How Immigration Fuels Population Growth

 Jack Martin*
August 11, 2003

 

Introduction
The Bird's-Eye View
Large Metropolitan Areas: Immigrant Influx and Native-Born Exodus
    Table 1: Large Metropolitan Areas Population Change ―Native Born & Foreign Born 1990 2000
    Table 2: Four Consequences
Immigrant and Native-Born Influx
    Table 3: Native Born & Foreign Born Populations 1990 2000
Immigration's Impact on Mid-Sized Metropolitan Areas
    Table 4: Mid-Sized Metropolitan Areas Population Change ―Native Born & Foreign Born 1990 2000
Immigration's Impact on Smaller Metropolitan Areas
    Table 5: Smaller Metropolitan Areas Population Change ―Native Born & Foreign Born 1990 2000
Recommendations: Curtailing the Surge in Immigration
Conclusion
Notes

 

Introduction

The United States experienced record levels of immigration in the 1990s. Fifteen million immigrants settled in the U.S. legally and illegally during the decade. Factor in their children and the generally higher fertility rates among immigrant groups, and this single factor accounts, conservatively, for more than half the astounding 35 million increase in U.S. population in the 1990s.

Immigration at these levels has a significant impact on a variety of pressing national issues, such as school overcrowding, bankrupt public health care systems, the alarming number of children living in poverty, and deteriorating or inadequate infrastructure. For cities and regions experiencing particularly high levels of immigration-related population growth, no serious discussion of these issues can be undertaken without reexamining immigration policy.
 

The Bird's-Eye View

Immigration increased at more than six times the rate of increase for the native-born population. Nationwide, population increased by 13 percent over the 1990s. However, when the components of that increase are analyzed, it can be seen that the immigrant population1 increased 57.4 percent (from 19.8 million to 31.1 million), while the native-born population increased 9.3 percent (from 229.1 million to 250.3 million).

This division of the increase in the population identifies immigration as being directly responsible for more than one-third (35%) of the country's population increase during the 1990s. The most recent estimate by the Census Bureau indicates that, since the start of the new century, immigration is accounting for almost half (44%) of the population increase,2 without taking into account the additional impact resulting from the children born to immigrants after they arrive.

If our immigration policies remain unchanged, Census Bureau projections show that immigration will account for two-thirds of the staggering 135 million additional residents projected to be added our population during the first half of this century. In that context, discussing the future of American cities without addressing the impact of immigration is an exercise in futility.
 

Large Metropolitan Areas: Immigrant Influx and Native-Born Exodus

In all large cities in the United States where the population is increasing, immigration is fueling the increase. Of metro areas with populations of more than one million in 2000 and an increase in population of over 20 percent between 1990-2000, the rate of increase of the immigrant population is generally more than three times greater than the rate of increase in non-immigrant newcomers.

Many of the cities with the largest influx of immigrants are not increasing especially rapidly in total population because there are so many native-born residents moving out of those cities. That exodus of native-born residents dampens the overall net change. In five of those metropolitan areas,3 i.e., those in which the native-born population was less in 2000 than in 1990 (see Table 1), immigration accounted for all of the metropolitan area's population increase between 1990-2000, and then some. In all of the others, immigration accounted directly for more than half of the metropolitan area's population increase.4

The problems resulting from the demographic trends in those large immigrant-settlement cities relate to the population increase itself (immigration added more than 100,000 residents in each of these cities during the 1990s) and to the changing characteristics of the population, as immigrants displace or replace native-born residents. Those localities have acute problems associated with the influx of immigrants such as school overcrowding, insufficient low-income housing, and the strains on public education from educating large numbers of non-English-speaking children.

Table 1

Metro Area

Population

Native-Born

Foreign-Born

 

1990

2000

1990

2000

Change

1990

2000

Change

Bergen-Passaic, NJ

1,278,440

1,373,167

1,041,502

1,020,575

-2%

236,938

352,592

49%

Boston, Mass.

3,227,707

3,406,835

2,914,462

2,898,556

-1%

313,245

508,279

62%

Chicago, IL

7,410,858

8,272,768

6,523,247

6,846,790

5%

887,611

1,425,978

61%

Detroit, MI

4,266,654

4,441,551

4,012,181

4,106,444

2%

234,473

335,107

43%

Los Angeles, CA

8,863,184

9,519,338

5,968,089

6,069,894

2%

2,895,066

3,449,444

19%

Middlesex-Somerset-Hunterdon, NJ

1,019,835

1,169,641

893,182

926,235

4%

126,653

243,406

92%

Nassau-Suffolk, NY

2,609,212

2,753,913

2,335,690

2,356,974

1%

273,522

396,939

45%

Newark, NJ

1,915,928

2,012,989

1,649,462

1,647,182

0%

266,466

385,807

45%

New York, NY

8,546,846

9,314,235

6,263,915

6,174,588

-1%

2,282,931

3,139,647

38%

Oakland, CA

2,082,914

2,392,557

1,745,479

1,819,413

4%

337,435

573,144

70%

Philadelphia, PA

4,922,175

5,100,931

4,669,670

4,743,510

2%

252,505

357,421

42%

San Francisco, CA

1,603,678

1,711,183

1,162,388

1,176,364

1%

441,290

554,819

26%

San Jose, CA

1,497,577

1,682,585

1,150,376

1,109,455

-4%

347,201

573,130

65%


Evidence of this problem may be seen in looking at 2000 Census data for the nation's two largest concentrations of immigrants: Los Angeles and New York City. As shown in Table 2 below, both of these metropolitan areas have elevated levels of children in families with income below the poverty level, who live in high-poverty neighborhoods, who are high school dropouts, and who have difficulty communicating in English.

Other examples of chronic immigration-related problems in these major cities include overcrowded housing, school crowding, and budgetary problems due to increasing outlays for services at the same time that tax collections stagnate in part because many of these new workers are earning subsistence wages and/or working off the books.
 

Table 2

 

Los Angeles

New York

National

Children in Poverty

24.6%

27.5%

16.6%

Residents in High Poverty Areas

44.8%

49.6%

20.4%

High School Dropouts

11.8%

10.6%

 9.8%

English Difficulty

22.7%

14.8%

 6.6%


Los Angeles County has the highest rate of severe crowded housing in the United States, at 15 percent, and experts say that the problem is driven by mass numbers of immigrants working for subsistence wages.5 So many people living in single-family homes strains services such as trash collection, schools, and public safety.

New York City's housing supply has not kept pace with its surging population, creating high prices, overcrowding, and homelessness.6 Bronx County has the third highest rate of severely crowded housing in the nation.7 Flushing's housing shortage is so severe that there is simply no more living space; houses and apartments are being subdivided, and basements, attics, and garages are all being rented out.8 And New York's schools are bursting with over-capacity enrollments, a trend that the school chancellor says is "almost exclusively driven by immigration."9 Some classes are even being held in school ticket booths and custodial closets.10

Other cities in this list are suffering as well: Thirty-seven of Detroit's 88 suburban school districts had double-digit enrollment growth between 1992 and 2000.11 Apartments in Bergen are among the least affordable in the U.S., according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition. To afford the estimated $1,050 rent on a typical two-bedroom apartment in Bergen, a worker needs to earn an hourly wage of $20.19, almost quadruple the minimum wage of $5.15.12 In Boston, congestion costs each motorist three days and $1,255 each year.13 In Chicago, rush hour now lasts almost eight hours a day,14 and affordable housing shortages are becoming a crisis.15
 

Immigrant and Native-Born Influx

Where the most dramatically increased problems of crowding, urban sprawl, and related issues arise is in cities where there is both an influx of immigrants and of native-born residents. Those two sources of population increase combined with natural change (involving the birth rate) result in population growth rates that strain the ability of city planners to manage the impact.

The Portland-Vancouver metropolitan area offers an example of the challenges in dealing with this high-impact population growth. Portland's battle against sprawl is well known. But with a 28 percent increase in population during the 1990s, Portland, once a model for limiting urban growth, has been forced to repeatedly expand its urban boundary. Growth has led to traffic congestion, longer commutes, and inflated home prices (which increased 44 percent in the 1990s16). In December 2002, Portland's regional government agreed to the largest expansion of allowable development in its history-18,600 acres-simply to accommodate population growth anticipated over the next 20 years.17 In the Portland school districts, as many as two out of three new students are immigrants.18

What is strikingly evident in these bursting cities is that the rate of increase in immigrant settlement is consistently much greater than the rate of increase from domestic migration into the metropolitan area. This pattern of immigration-led population growth may be seen in Table 3. The criteria for selecting these metropolitan areas were that they had populations of more than one million in 2000 and had an increase in population of over 20 percent between 1990-2000. All U.S. metropolitan areas that met these two criteria are included in the table.19

Even in Las Vegas, the nation's fastest growing large metropolitan area, the high rate of increase in the native-born population (131%) is outstripped by the even higher rate of increase in the foreign-born population (248%). In every other of these metropolitan areas the rate of increase of the immigrant population is more than three times greater than the rate of increase in native-born newcomers.

What symptoms accompany this immigration-inflated population growth? Las Vegas' school enrollment doubled during the 1990s. Clark County school district (part of the Las Vegas metro area) projects that, given the current trend, it will add 10,000 to 15,000 students every year.20,21 Officials say that unless Salt Lake City acts to limit sprawl and curb auto emissions, the city could soon be "obscured by a soup of pollutants."22 In the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill metro area, one in every ten students, or 3,000 students in Durham, attend class in mobile trailers, many of which are decades old and dilapidated.23 Chapel Hill expects its high schools to reach 126 percent of their capacity in the next three years.24

Table 3

Metro Area

Population

Native-Born

Foreign-Born

 

1990

2000

1990

2000

Change

1990

2000

Change

Charlotte-Gastonia-Rock Hill, NC

1,162,093

1,499,291

1,138,052

1,399,533

23%

24,041

99,760

315%

Atlanta, GA

2,959,950

4,112,198

2,846,615

3,689,091

30%

113,335

423,105

273%

Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill, NC

855,545

1,187,941

826,205

1,079,138

31%

29,340

108,803

271%

Las Vegas, NV

528,026

1,304,788

453,715

1,046,294

131%

74,285

258,894

248%

Nashville, TN

985,026

1,231,311

966,826

1,173,697

21%

18,200

57,614

217%

Denver, CO

1,622,980

2,109,282

1,541,646

1,876,186

22%

81,334

233,096

187%

Phoenix-Mesa, AZ

2,238,480

3,251,876

2,076,650

2,794,393

35%

161,830

457,483

183%

Salt Lake City-Ogden, UT

1,072,277

1,333,934

1,030,500

2,794,393

18%

41,777

114,508

174%

Austin-San Marcos, TX

846,227

1,249,763

790,073

1,096,929

18%

56,154

152,834

172%

Dallas, TX

2,676,248

3,519,176

2,439,723

2,928,007

20%

236,525

591,169

150%

Orlando, FL

1,224,852

1,644,561

1,142,810

1,447,442

27%

82,042

197,119

140%

Portland-Vancouver, OR/WA

1,515,452

1,918,009

1,427,380

1,709,934

20%

88,072

208,075

136%

San Jose, CA

1,497,577

1,682,585

1,150,376

1,109,455

-4%

347,201

573,130

65%

Ft. Worth-Arlington, TX

1,361,034

1,702,625

1,277,157

1,509,152

18%

83,877

193,473

131%

Ft. Lauderdale, FL

1,255,531

1,623,018

1,057,257

1,212,631

15%

198,274

410,387

107%

Jacksonville, FL

952,840

1,100,491

922,446

1,040,905

13%

30,394

59,586

96%

Houston, TX

3,322,009

4,177,646

2,881,688

3,322,977

15%

440,321

854,669

94%

Sacramento, CA

1,340,010

1,628,197

1,219,874

1,402,257

15%

120,136

225,940

88%

W. Palm Beach-Boca Raton, FL

863,503

1,131,184

758,200

934,332

23%

105,303

196,852

87%

Riverside-San Bernadino, CA

2,588,793

3,254,821

2,228,143

2,642,462

19%

360,650

612,359

70%

San Antonio, TX

1,324,749

1,592,383

1,219,805

1,429,919

17%

104,944

162,464

55%


Immigration's Impact on Mid-Sized Metropolitan Areas

In mid-sized cities with population growth higher than 20 percent between 1990 2000, new immigrant residents accounted for portions ranging from one-fifth to one-third of the increase.

The impact of rapidly increasing immigrant populations is not limited to the largest metropolitan areas. The data on cities of between half a million and one million residents show a similar pattern of a rapidly growing immigrant population outstripping change in the native-born population (see Table 4). Each of the cities in this table also had population growth rates in excess of 20 percent between 1990 2000.25
 

Table 4

Metro Area

Population

Native-Born

Foreign-Born

 

1990

2000

1990

2000

Change

1990

2000

Change

Albuquerque, NM

539,131

712,738

560,288

656,558

17%

28,843

56,180

95%

Sarasota-Bradenton, FL

489,483

589,959

461,448

537,308

16%

28,035

52,651

88%

Colorado Springs, CO

397,014

516,929

288,830

401,248

28%

18,385

33,308

81%

McAllen-Edinburgh-Mission, TX

383,545

569,463

288,830

401,248

39%

94,715

168,215

78%

Bakersfield, CA

543,477

661,645

477,336

549,701

15%

66,141

111,944

69%

Tucson, AZ

666,880

843,746

606,932

743,696

23%

59,948

100,050

67%

Fresno, CA

755,580

922,516

623,319

729,046

17%

132,261

193,470

46%


Despite the fact that each of these smaller metropolitan areas was receiving an influx of native-born newcomers in addition to immigrant settlers, the new foreign-born residents nevertheless represented a significant share of the overall population increase. The share of the increase directly attributable to immigration was more than one-third in McAllen-Edinburgh-Mission (40%), Bakersfield (39%), and Fresno (37%). The share was more than one-fifth of the overall population increase in Sarasota-Bradenton (29%), Tucson (23%), and Albuquerque (22%).
 

Immigration's Impact on Smaller Metropolitan Areas

In every smaller metro area that increased by more than 20 percent between 1990 2000, the rate of increase from net immigrant settlement exceeded the increase from net domestic in-migration.

The rate of population increase in the immigrant population of these cities ranged from about twice as much as the increase in the native-born population up to more than 15 times as much.

A look at similar data for cities with population size between a quarter of a million residents and half a million residents reveals the same pattern. Once again, the municipalities selected for examination are all of those that increased in size by more than 20 percent between 1990 2000 (see Table 5).26

The rate of increase from net immigrant settlement exceeded the increase from net domestic in-migration in every one of these 16 smaller metropolitan areas. The rate of population increase in the immigrant population of these cities ranged from about twice as much as the increase in the native-born population (Daytona Beach) up to more than 15 times as much (Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers metro area).

The share of the overall population increase that was directly attributable to the influx of immigrants was more than one-third in Modesto (38%), Brownsville-Harlingen (37%), and Salem (34%). The amount of change from immigration was more than one-fifth in another five of the metropolitan areas: Naples (30%), Reno (29%), Boulder-Longmont (22%), Fort Myers-Cape Coral (22%), and Fort Pierce-Port St. Lucie (21%).

Table 5

Metro Area

Population

Native-Born

Foreign-Born

 

1990

2000

1990

2000

Change

1990

2000

Change

Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers, AK

210,939

311,123

207,874

289,561

39%

3,065

21,562

603%

Boise, ID

295,345

432,345

286,980

408,121

42%

8,365

24,224

190%

Naples, FL

152,099

251,377

136,196

205,306

51%

15,903

46,071

190%

Provo-Orem, UT

263,590

368,536

255,290

345,349

35%

8,170

23,187

184%

Salem, OR

278,024

347,214

261,824

307,221

17%

16,200

39,993

147%

Ft. Myers-Cape Coral, FL

335,113

440,888

317,663

400,526

26%

17,450

40,362

131%

Boulder-Longmont, CO

225,399

291,288

212,839

264,009

24%

12,560

27,279

117%

Reno, NV

254,667

339,486

231,302

291,493

26%

23,365

47,993

105%

Ocala, FL

194,835

258,916

187,850

245,564

31%

6,985

13,352

91%

Ft. Collins-Loveland, CO

186,136

251,494

180,401

240,785

33%

5,735

10,709

87%

Ft. Pierce-Port St. Lucie, FL

251,071

319,426

234,676

288,943

23%

16,395

30,483

86%

Tallahassee, FL

233,598

284,539

226,058

271,346

20%

7,540

13,193

75%

Killeen-Temple, TX

255,301

312,952

241,771

291,664

21%

13,530

21,288

57%

Modesto, CA

370,522

446,997

317,678

365,382

15%

52,844

81,615

54%

Brownsville-Harlingen-San Benito, TX

260,120

335,227

202,519

249,504

23%

57,601

85,723

49%

Daytona Beach, FL

399,438

493,438

375,723

459,865

22%

23,715

33,310

40%

 

Recommendations: Curtailing the Surge in Immigration

The number of people coming to our country is based on a discretionary policy. The flow of legal immigrants, refugees, and even illegal entrants may be changed by law and by the actions or inaction of the government.

Economic, social, and environmental policy would benefit greatly from moderating mass immigration. Though not entirely responsible for the three most troublesome phenomena plaguing America's large cities-the growing disparity between rich and poor, collapsing social institutions, and urban sprawl and congestion-none of these issues can be adequately addressed while large numbers of new immigrants, many lacking education and skills, pour in.

The bulk of the responsibility for addressing immigration's impact on America's cities rests with the federal government. Washington's failure to establish clearly definable objectives for U.S. immigration policy, coupled with its unwillingness to enforce the rules it passes- often with great fanfare-lies at the core of the issue. But America's cities, and the people who run them, are not entirely innocent bystanders. They have shown themselves more than willing to pander to narrow economic interests and ethnic voting blocs, in an effort to reap campaign dollars and votes, while sacrificing both the immediate and long-term interests of their cities.

Once the role of immigration in causing our urban areas to be bursting at the seams is recognized, the need to pursue the following agenda is clear:

Reduce overall immigration levels. Incrementally, the federal government should reduce overall legal immigration levels to the U.S. to somewhere between a quarter and a third of current levels, while a vigorous, coordinated effort is made to deter illegal immigration.

Increase federal reimbursement for immigration-related costs. The federal government, which has ultimate responsibility for making and enforcing immigration laws, should assume the bulk of the cost burden associated with this policy, thereby relieving state and local governments of what amounts to an enormous unfunded federal mandate.

Make federal reimbursement contingent on local policies and efforts. Local governments that choose to offer costly benefits to immigrants, above and beyond those required by federal policy and common decency, must be prepared to pay those costs themselves. Local politicians, seeking to appeal to blocs of new voters, should not expect the costs to be borne by taxpayers throughout the rest of the country.

Immigration enforcement must include federal-local cooperation. Local governments cannot reasonably complain about the cost and impact of illegal immigration, while they stand on the sideline, or worse, inhibit, the enforcement of immigration laws. Any local government refusing to cooperate in enforcing laws against illegal immigration should forfeit federal reimbursement for the costs associated with illegal immigration.
 

Conclusion

The data indicate where we are and where we are headed. How we choose to react to it is up to us. The consequences of our action or inaction will determine whether America's cities will be centers of vibrant culture, economic advancement, and social harmony, or decaying cores of despair. 

Notes

1. The terms "immigrant population" and "foreign-born population" are used interchangeably in this study, inasmuch as the difference between the populations they refer to is negligible.
2. The Census Bureau estimate based on the 2002 Current Population Survey indicates that since 2000, the U.S. population had increased by 3.2 million, with 1.4 million of that increase due to net international migration.
3. Metropolitan areas, rather than the core cities, are used throughout this study to eliminate the effects of population shifts between the core city and its suburban areas. Thereby, the movement of native-born residents out of the city proper to the suburbs because of rising housing costs, congested conditions, or deteriorating schools is nullified.
4. The share of overall population increase due to immigrant settlement in those eight metropolitan areas was: San Francisco (89%), Nassau (85%), Los Angeles (85%), Middlesex (78%), Oakland (76%), Chicago (63%), Philadelphia (59%), and Detroit (59%).
5. Haya El Nasser, "U.S. Neighborhoods Grow More Crowded," USA Today, July 2, 2002
.
6. Bruce Lambert, "120 Groups Join to Push $10 Billion Housing Plan," New York Times, June 1, 2001.
7. Haya El Nasser, op.cit.
8. Michele Ingrassia, "The Big Squeeze;
New York Has too Many People, Not Enough Room," Daily News, August 5, 2001.
9. Charisse Jones, "New-Timers' Lives Reviving Old Cities,"
USA Today, April 20, 2001.
10. Karen Robinson, "Growth
Puts School District, Planners in a Bind," Buffalo News, October 12, 2001.
11. "Student Population Booming in Detroit-Area Districts," Associated Press, April 30, 2001.
12. "Rental Housing Too Costly for Many in New Jersey," The Record, September 19, 2002.
13. Karen E. Crummy, "Time for a Tailgate Party: Gridlocked Hub Makes Top 10,"
Boston Herald, June 21, 2002.
14. Robert McCoppin, "You Wasted $1,235 and 67 Hours Sitting in Traffic, Study Says,"
Chicago Daily Herald, June 24, 2002.
15. Kate N. Grossman, "Affordable Housing Pinch Also Hits Suburbs,"
Chicago Sun-Times, July 22, 2002.
16. Tara Burghart, "Urban Planning, Oregon-Style, Gets Strong Support, Criticism," Associated Press, May 31, 2001.
17. Laura Oppenheimer, "Damascus Waits to See How Growth Wll Proceed," Oregonian, March 31, 2003.
18. Tracy Jan, "As Enrollment at Oregon Schools Declines, Local Districts Buck Trend," Oregonian, October 31, 2002.
19. There were an additional nine metropolitan areas with populations over 1,000,000 residents in which the population growth rate during the 1990s exceeded 15 percent-which approximates a rate for population doubling in 47 years. They were: Greensboro-Winston-Salem-High Point (19%), Seattle-Bellevue-Everett (19%), Orange County MSA (18%), Minneapolis-St. Paul (17%), Washington
, D.C. (17%), Indianapolis (16%), Miami (16%), Grand Rapids-Muskegon (16%), and Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater (16%).
20. Anjetta McQueen, "A Crowded Century Ahead," Associated Press, August 25, 2001.
21. Genaro C. Armas, "Baby Boomers' Kids, Immigrants to Flood Nation's High Schools," Associated Press, May 24, 2001.
22. Timothy Egan, "Urban Sprawl Strains Western States," New York Times, December 29, 2001.
23. Rebecca E. Eden, "Leaders Meet on School Crowding," Herald-Sun, May 1, 2001
.
24. Neil Offen, "City High Schools Going Mobile,"
Chapel Hill Herald, October 6, 2002.
25. All U.S. cities that met the population size and rate of population increase are included in the table. There were an additional seven metropolitan areas with population between 500,000 and 1,000,000 residents in which the population growth rate during the 1990s exceeded 15 percent-which approximates a rate for population doubling in 47 years. They were: Tacoma (20%), Ann Arbor (18%), Knoxville (17%), Stockton-Lodi (17%), Greenville-Spartanburg-Anderson (16%), Richmond-Petersburg (15%), and Vallejo-Fairfield-Napa (15%).
26. There were an additional sixteen metropolitan areas with population between 250,000 and 500,000 residents in which the population growth rate during the 1990s exceeded 15 percent-which approximates a rate for population doubling in 47 years. They were: Pensacola (20%), Lakeland-Winter Haven (19%), Melbourne-Titusville-Palm Bay (19%), Santa Rosa (18%), Visalia-Tulare-Porterville (18%), Lincoln (17%), Hickory-Morganton (17%), Huntsville (17%), Biloxi-Gulfport-Pascagoula (17%), Madison (16%), Des Moines (16%), Spokane (16%), Newburg, NY (15%), Galveston-Texas City (15%), Anchorage (15%), and Augusta-Aiken (15%).

______
* Courtesy of The Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).
See at < http://www.fairus.org/html/msareport1.html >.

 

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