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Immigration and Median Income of Metropolitan Areas

Reflecting upon the division in the United States on how to address immigration concerns, one can observe that the United States Congress has thus far failed to pass any legislation to reform our immigration laws. One reason for this failure is that little empirical data is used to elucidate the costs and contributions that immigrants generate. For example, some say that immigrants drive down wages and depress local economies, while others claim that immigrants make economic contributions to metropolitan areas.

The paper addresses the question of the influence of immigrants on median household income for metropolitan areas in the United States. It hypothesizes that metropolitan areas with higher concentrations of immigrants have higher median household income. The paper uses 2000 U.S. Census data and other sources to examine the relationship of the concentration of immigrants (percent foreign-born) and median household income of the different metropolitan areas in the United States. In a subsequent analysis, the concentrations of Latino and Asian immigrants are analyzed separately to identify if any differences in immigrant origin exist among metropolitan economies.

Data and Methods

The data for this research are taken from the various sources, including the United States 2000 Census. It was collected from 2000 to 2012. The Census results are extensive and display analytical reports on population change, race, age, family structure, housing, apportionment, and more. The census shows economic characteristics for the United States as well as selected housing characteristics for the given year. There are two forms that one can fill out for the census: the simple “short” form questionnaire, stating the bodies that live in one’s housing unit on that given day, and the more detailed “long” form questionnaire. In the long form, there are over fifty questions about the individual’s race, level of education, marital status, employment, types of income, and many more.


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To test the hypothesis that families having low income level and those who receive public assistance drive people away of the middle class making close to or just about the median income of their area, it was necessary to analyze the data regarding the Latin and Asian immigrants in the U.S. and evaluate the median household income of these groups. Then, the obtained data were compared to the median income of a regular non-immigrant American household. The percentage of households who receive public assistance is created by dividing the number of households who received public assistance by the total number of households in a metropolitan area.

Literature Review

The Americans of the Asian descent are considered the racial group with the highest rate of income, education quality, and the overall growing number among the American citizens. In general, they express more satisfaction with the quality of their lives, income, and the direction the country is heading. They respect family values, parenthood and value success in their careers more than other Americans do, as it has been concluded in the survey conducted by the Pew Research Center (Pew Research Center, 2012; Lee, 1998).

About 100 years ago, most Americans of the Asian origin could not boast of their high professional skills and decent income; they worked and lived in enclaves based on their ethnic origins and were subjected to discrimination at the official level. Nowadays, it is more likely that representatives of this ethnic group will live in neighborhoods where people of different nationalities and races live. They are also inclined to interracial marriages. A very well known example of such a marriage is Mark Zuckerberg’s, Facebook’s founder, marriage to Priscilla Chan, a graduate from med school. Pricsilla became one of those 37% American brides of the Asian descent with non-Asian husbands (Pew Research Center, 2012).

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Immigrants still refill the ethnic group of Asian Americans, who have achieved major success in the economic sphere and have managed to assimilate well. Almost three quarters of adults from this group were not born in the U.S. About half of them claim to speak English well; another half does not speak it at all.

Asians have surpassed the representatives of another ethnic group, Hispanics, in the number of immigrants that arrive to the U.S. Those who arrive are rather educated people. More than 60 percent of the recent newcomers to the United States are adults who have a University degree, a bachelor’s one at least. The number of immigrants of non-Asian origin is twice as little. The Asians that immigrate to the U.S. can be definitely considered as the most highly educated group of immigrants during the whole history of the U.S. (Pew Research Center, 2012; Lee, 1998).

Speaking of the education in such Asian countries as South Korea and Japan, one should note that more than 25 percent of adults in the former country and 25 percent in the latter have studied enough to get a bachelor’s degree or even more. The number of the recent immigrants that have a bachelor’s degree reaches 70 percent. Immigrants from the Asian countries have more chances to get a green card based on their employment than because of the family reunion (Pew Research Center, 2012; Lee, 1998). Still, Asian immigrants use the reunion of their families as a legal gateway that would allow them to get a green card in the U.S. This applies to other immigrants as well.

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The latest wave of immigration from Asia started about 50 years ago; thus, in the year 2011, about 18.2 million of Asian Americans, children and adults, those born abroad and born already in the US, constituted 5.8 percent of the total population in America. In 1965, this number was not even 1 percent. If compared to the representatives of other ethnic groups, the whites of non-Hispanic origin constitute 63.3 percent (197.5 million), whereas Hispanics constitute 16.7 percent or 52.0 million; 38.3 million or 12.3% of the U.S. population are blacks of non-Hispanic origin (Pew Research Center, 2012).

Immigrants from the Asian region arrive from countries of the Far East, Indian subcontinent, and Southeast Asia. People that come from these countries have their history, language, culture, religion, and political as well as social values. Despite the differences between subgroups, which sometimes can be substantial, the Americans of Asian origin can be easily distinguished. This becomes more apparent if comparison is made to all adults that live in the US. The share of the Asian Americans with a college degree is higher, namely 49 percent against 28 percent among other Americans. The average annual income of their households is higher (66 thousand dollars against almost 49 thousand) (Pew Research Center, 2012; Lee, 1998; United States Census Bureau, 2000).

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The level of education is not the only thing that distinguishes the Asian Americans from others. According to the survey that was conducted by the Pew Research Center among 3,511 Americans of Asian origin, Asian Americans were more satisfied with their lives than the general population (82 percent and 75 percent respectively). They were more satisfied with their finances (51 percent and 35 percent respectively) and they supported the general way of the country’s development (43 percent and 21 percent respectively) (Pew Research Center, 2012; Lee, 1998; United States Census Bureau, 2000).

These people highly value their families. For more than 54 percent of the respondents, a successful marriage is a very important thing in life, if not one of the most important; whereas only 34 percent of the general American population supports that idea. About 67 percent agree that it is very important to be a good parent. This idea is supported by only 50 percent of the general American population (Pew Research Center, 2012; Lee, 1998; United States Census Bureau, 2000).

The following numbers support the fact that they indeed cherish family values. 59 percent of the adults of Asian origin are married, whereas, there is only 51 percent of Americans of non-Asian origin are married. Only 16 percent of unmarried mothers have babies; the number of unmarried mothers among the general population reaches 41 percent. About 80 percent of children are raised in households with two married parents. This number reaches 63 percent among the general population of the country.

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The Americans of Asian descent are prone to living in households where many family generations live (Pew Research Center, 2012; Lee, 1998; United States Census Bureau, 2000). About 28 percent of them live in houses with family members representing two family generations. This number is twice as little among the whites, but the Hispanics and blacks also have large families. American Asians respect their elders very much. More than a half of them agree that their parents must influence the choice of their professions and even tell whom they should marry.

The Americans of Asian origin firmly believe in hard work and that it brings great rewards. Almost 70 percent of them say that they will become successful if they will work hard. A bit smaller part of the American population shares this view – about 58 percent. More than 90 percent of Asians that live in the U.S. describe their compatriots as hardworking people; only 57 of all Americans can say this about other people (Pew Research Center, 2012; Lee, 1998; United States Census Bureau, 2000).

Sometimes Asian Americans work excessively hard, which results in stresses. About 40 percent of parents agree that they pressure their children too much so that they did well in school. Only 9 percent of all parents in America do the same. Almost 60 percent of Asian American parents think that American parents in general do not push their children too hard to have success in school. Again, only 9 percent among the general population think that parents of Asian origin do the same. Last year, Amy Chua, a law professor from Yale, published a memoir (in a comic form) where she described the strict parenting of her parents, immigrants from Asia. This caused a heated dispute about the differences in parenting of different cultures.

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People started immigrating to the US when the living standards began to rise (The rise of Asian Americans, 2012; Lee, 1998; United States Census Bureau, 2000). Not many immigrants regret their decision to leave their home countries. Only 12 percent of the respondents said that, if they were presented with an opportunity to start things over, they would not leave their home countries. The absolute majority of the Asian Americans claim that the U.S is better than the country they had arrived from because it provides greater economic opportunities, political as well as religious freedom, and it is a good country to raise children in (Pew Research Center, 2012; Lee, 1998; United States Census Bureau, 2000).

The high average household income among the Asian Americans is a result of the high level of education among the Asian Americans. What adds to this number is the fact that an average household of American Asians consists of 3.1 people, whereas the average household of an average American consists of 2.6 people. It means that there are more people among whom the income is divided.

During the research, the Pew Research Center adjusted the average income in households depending on the differences in household sizes and brought to a standard the income of households with three people. That adjustment meant that the average income of households among all households of the general population was 82 percent from the average income of Asian American households. This number dropped to 75 percent when there was no adjustment to household incomes (Pew Research Center, 2012; Lee, 1998; United States Census Bureau, 2000). These differences in income can be also explained by the geography. As some analysts say, the Americans of Asian origin are more concentrated in the states where general income is higher.

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Almost a half of all the Hispanics that live in the U.S. resides in ten metropolitan areas, as the research of the Pew Research Center has shown in 2010. The largest share of the Hispanic population in the country lives in the metropolitan area of Los Angeles-Long Beach, CA. 5.7 million people living there constitute about 11 percent of the whole Hispanic population of the country. 8 percent of the nation’s Hispanics or 4.2 million resides in the metropolitan area of New York-Northeastern New Jersey. It is the second largest group of Hispanics after California (Motel & Patten, 2012; Brick, Challinor & Rosenblum, 2011). According to Motel and Patten (2012),

Six of the 10 largest Hispanic metropolitan populations are in just two states. California has three–Los Angeles (#1), Riverside-San Bernardino (#4) and San Francisco-Oakland-Vallejo (#10). Texas is also home to three of the 10 largest Hispanic metropolitan areas—Houston-Brazoria (#3), Dallas-Fort Worth (#6) and San Antonio (#9). The other four largest Hispanic metropolitan populations are New York (#2); Chicago, Ill. (#5); Miami-Hialeah, Fla. (#7); and Phoenix, Ariz. (#8).

In each of the above-mentioned metropolitan areas, the share of the Hispanic population is different and the population has its peculiar characteristic of their area of residence (Motel & Patten, 2012; Brick, Challinor & Rosenblum, 2011). The average annual income in households of the Hispanic group in the above-mentioned areas ranges from 35 thousand dollars in Phoenix to 55 thousand dollars in San Francisco (Motel & Patten, 2012; Brick, Challinor & Rosenblum, 2011). Here, in San Fransisco, the average personal income of those who work full time is the highest among all metropolitan areas – 36 thousand dollars. The lowest personal income is in Dallas – 26 thousand dollars. According to Motel and Patten (2012),

The highest Hispanic median household incomes among the top 60 metropolitan areas are in the Washington metro area ($62,000) and Baltimore, Md. ($56,400)—which have the 12th and 56th largest Hispanic populations, respectively. Brownsville-Harlingen-San Benito, Texas, which is the 29th largest metropolitan area by Hispanic population, has the lowest median Hispanic household income in the top 60, at $28,600.


Considering the provided information, the situation with median household income in terms of non-born Latin and Asian immigrants is as follows: the median income of immigrant households is lower than average in the U.S. and it influences the median income of Americans. It addition, such state of things influences the median household income of an average American family. In other words, the increasing number of immigrants depresses the situation in the country, considering the number of immigrants and their low-paid jobs. It happens because immigrants literally flood the country, get low-paid jobs, work more hours, etc.

The rising number of people looking for jobs creates unemployment, which leads to the eventual lowering of median income per household. Thus, the poverty rate increases. It should be noted that situation within immigrant population differs substantially if to comparing the Asian and Latin immigrants. Asian families, even in the first generation of immigration, are wealthier than Latin families.

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According to Pew Research Center(2012), Asian median household was about $84,000, while Latin families had only about $8,000 per household. White Americans had around $110,000. The trend of 2012 can be supported by the earlier observations. Thus, Lee (1998) states the following:

Asian Americans’ median family income tends to be higher than that of whites, blacks, and Hispanics.” She adds: “In 1996, median family income for Asians (including Pacific Islanders) was $43,000, $3,000 more than that of non-Hispanic whites, nearly $18,000 above the median for Hispanics, and nearly $20,000 above the median family income of blacks (Lee, 1998).

As one can notice, the difference between two immigrants’ groups is about 10 times. Such a gap leads to poverty and unemployment in the metropolitan areas. According to Brick, Challinor, and Rosenblum (2011), the immigrants from Mexico and Central America get the lowest-paying jobs even within the sector were wages are low. They have one of the lowest median incomes per household among other groups of the foreign-born immigrants. The most populated state in terms of the immigrants from Mexico and Central America is California (Brick, Challinor & Rosenblum, 2011).

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The hypothesis that metropolitan areas with higher concentrations of immigrants will have higher median household income was proved only partially. In case of Asian immigrant groups living in the metropolitan areas, the median household income should be higher than average. It is so because of the higher median household income of Asian immigrants. Their households have income comparable to that of white natives. On the other hand, in metropolitan areas where the concentration of Latin immigrants is higher, the median household income is substantially lower than average. Considering the statistical data from various sources, the median household income of Latin immigrants is about 10 times lower than that of a usual American white family. Therefore, the income level of Asian immigrants and other immigrants differs substantially and depends on the metropolitan area they live in.



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