1. Nation & World

Census figures show economic gap narrows with citizenship

FILE - In this Aug. 16, 2019, file photo President Donald Trump congratulates newly naturalized citizens via a recorded message at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Miami field office in Miami. Foreign-born residents had higher rates of being employed than those born in the United States last year, and naturalized immigrants were more likely to have advanced degrees than the native-born, according to figures released Monday, Aug. 19, by the U.S. Census Bureau. (Associated Press)
Published Aug. 20

ORLANDO, Fla. — Foreign-born residents had higher rates of full-time employment than those born in the United States last year, and naturalized immigrants were more likely to have advanced degrees than the native-born, according to figures released Monday by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The new figures show that the economic gap between the native-born and the foreign-born in the United States appears to narrow with citizenship.

Immigrants who weren't citizens had higher rates of poverty, lower income and less education compared with native-born citizens last year. But immigrants who were citizens had less poverty, close to equal earnings and higher rates of advanced degrees than native U.S. citizens.

"Usually immigrants start off in the U.S. lagging behind a bit in terms of income, as they need to find the right job, learn local skills and so on and then catch up," said Giovanni Peri, an economist at the University of California, Davis. "Immigrants also are very different among each other, and those naturalized may be a selection of those more educated and with better jobs."

Naturalized immigrants had a fulltime employment rate of about 83 percent last year, noncitizens had about 81 percent and native citizens had 77 percent.

"Some immigrant groups have to be employed to stay in this country — those on work visas, which would raise the proportion," said Stefan Rayer, a demographer at the University of Florida.

About 1 in 6.5 naturalized immigrants have a master's degree or higher, while that is true for only about 1 in 8 native-born citizens and noncitizens.

The 2018 Current Population Survey figures offer a view of immigrants' education levels, wealth and jobs as the U.S. engages in one of the fiercest debates about the role of immigration in decades.

Stopping the flow of immigrants into the U.S. has been a priority of President Donald Trump's administration, which has proposed denying green cards to immigrants who use Medicaid and fought to put a citizenship question on the decennial census questionnaire.

Monday's figures also look at differences between naturalized immigrants and those who aren't citizens. In 2018, the U.S. had 45.4 million foreign-born residents, or about 1 in 7 U.S. residents.

Education appears to play a role in narrowing the income gap between the native-born and the foreign-born.

Overall, naturalized immigrants had a slightly smaller median income than the native-born — $50,786 compared with $51,547 — but noncitizen immigrants trailed them both with a median income of $36,449.

But naturalized immigrants with a college degree surpassed college-educated natives' income, and both naturalized immigrants and noncitizens with advanced degrees had higher median incomes than U.S. natives with advanced degrees.

"Immigrants with advanced degrees, whether naturalized or not, may be more clustered in occupations with higher pay than the native population," Rayer said.

About half of the U.S. foreign-born came from Latin America, less than a third came from Asia and 10 percent came from Europe. European immigrants' median age — 50 — was roughly six years older than other immigrants.

More than a quarter of noncitizen immigrants were in service jobs, while almost a quarter of immigrants who were citizens were in professional jobs, according to the Census Bureau figures.

Asians and Europeans had the highest rates of advanced degrees — about a quarter of both immigrant groups had a master's degree or higher. About 1 in 20 immigrants from Latin America had a master's degree or higher.

Immigrants, both naturalized and noncitizens, were overwhelmingly urban and suburban dwellers. Less than 1 in 20 immigrants lived outside of a metropolitan area last year, compared with about 1 in 7 for native-born citizens, according to the figures.


  1. An American Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft approaches Miami International Airport for landing in March. Bloomberg
    The 60-year-old veteran airline employee told investigators he was upset that union contract negotiations had stalled.
  2. Terry Spencer carries his daughter, Trinity, through high water on 59th Street near Stewart Road in Galveston, Texas, Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019, as heavy rain from Tropical Depression Imelda caused street flooding on the island. JENNIFER REYNOLDS  |  AP
    Although the amount of predicted rainfall is massive — forecasters say some places could see 40 inches or more this week.
  3. This April 2001 photo, which appeared in a newsletter from the West Point Grey Academy, shows a costumed Justin Trudeau, his face and hands darkened by makeup, attending an "Arabian Nights" gala. The academy is a private school in Vancouver, B.C., where Trudeau worked as a teacher before entering politics. (West Point Grey Academy/The Canadian Press via AP)
    A few Southern politicians responded to similar scandals recently with denials, apologies, and promises. Most of them have managed to stay in office.
  4. This April 14, 2019 file photo shows a western meadowlark in the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge in Commerce City, Colo. According to a study released on Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019, North America’s skies are lonelier and quieter as nearly 3 billion fewer wild birds soar in the air than in 1970. Some of the most common and recognizable birds are taking the biggest hits, even though they are not near disappearing yet. The population of eastern meadowlarks has shriveled by more than three-quarters with the western meadowlark nearly as hard hit. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski) DAVID ZALUBOWSKI  |  AP
    “People need to pay attention to the birds around them because they are slowly disappearing,” said the study’s lead author.
  5. Richard Zeitlin's clients include a PAC called the Children's Leukemia Support Network. About 86 percent of the money raised by the leukemia network went to Zeitlin’s companies. Facebook
    Las Vegas police also ‘looking into’ officer following Center for Public Integrity investigation.
  6. In this Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2019 photo, Guatemalan immigrant Rosayra Pablo Cruz, far left, and her sons Yordy, 17, and Fernando, 6, pose with their host Vivien Tartter, a college professor who opened her home to the family for a year, in New York. Tartter is one more of a small but growing number of U.S. citizens who have picked up immigrants from detention centers, driven them to bus stations and doctor appointments, shared meals with them or hosted them at their homes, sometimes for one night, sometimes for a full year. BEBETO MATTHEWS  |  AP
    Psychology professor took action: She opened the doors of her Manhattan apartment to a Guatemalan family of three.
  7. President Donald Trump boards Air Force One at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019, in San Diego, Calif. EVAN VUCCI  |  AP
    The lawsuit opens a new legal front in Trump’s long-running fight to prevent his tax returns from becoming public.
  8. Khaseen Morris was stabbed in the chest during a large brawl among teens at a strip mall Monday afternoon in Oceanside, N.Y. Facebook/Nassau Police Department
    Khaseen Morris, 16, was killed during a brawl at a strip mall Monday in Oceanside, N.Y.
  9. In this April 24, 2019, photo, American Airlines aircraft are shown parked at their gates at Miami International Airport in Miami. A bail hearing is scheduled for a mechanic charged with sabotaging an American Airlines jetliner as part of a labor dispute. Prosecutors are seeking pretrial detention for 60-year-old Abdul-Majeed Marouf Ahmed Alani at a hearing Wednesday. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, File) WILFREDO LEE  |  AP
    His arraignment on a sabotage-related charge is scheduled for Friday; if convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison.
  10. President Donald Trump tours a section of the southern border wall, Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019, in Otay Mesa, Calif., with the Commanding General of the Army Corps of Engineers Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite third from left, acting commissioner of Customs and Border Protection Mark Morgan, third from right and acting Homeland Secretary Kevin McAleenan, second from right. EVAN VUCCI  |  AP
    “It was like a sheet metal, and people would just knock it over like just routinely,” Trump said, referring to the initial layer that was replaced.