urban institute nonprofit social and economic policy research

Research Area: Immigration

thoughtful latino boy The immigrant population in the United States has burgeoned over the past few decades. From 1990 to 2006, the number of immigrants rose from 20 million to more than 37 million. Urban Institute immigration policy experts study how the foreign-born population is growing, integrating, and changing.

We have analyzed immigrants’ contributions to the labor force and the economy, tracked fast-growing immigrant communities, studied the effect of No Child Left Behind on immigrant children and English Language Learners, and surveyed foreign-born households’ health, well-being, and economic mobility.

Immigration is changing the composition of the nation’s child population: one in five U.S. children and one in four low-income children has an immigrant parent. Since so many immigrants work in low-wage jobs without benefits, their children face greater risks of poverty, economic hardship, and lack of access to health insurance, public benefits, child care, and other services.

In Arkansas, which had the nation’s fourth-fastest-growing immigrant population in the 1990s, we found that the surge was largely labor replacement. Arkansas employers, especially in the manufacturing sector, have become more dependent on immigrants for their work force. In 2004, the state’s immigrants had an estimated total after-tax income of $2.7 billion.

In Maryland, we found immigrants accounted for half of the state’s total population growth and more than half of its workforce growth from 2000 to 2006.

Nationwide, immigrants are leaving the nation’s cities for smaller cities, towns, and rural areas. As this population spreads out, immigrant integration becomes a key issue for most American cities, not just a few traditional ports of entry. 


The Immigration Studies program features many publications on the various facets of immigration: