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California added 125,715 foreign immigrants in 2022, up 14% from pre-pandemic pace

“Why don’t you write about foreign immigration?”

Let’s say that’s not an uncommon response to my frequent analysis of California’s interstate migration puzzle.

Readers, your wish is my command. But let’s remember what the Census Bureau tracks when it comes to immigrants.

The math analyzing the factors behind population swings doesn’t give any hint as to whether new residents from other lands entered legally or not. These figures combine “U.S.-born and non-U.S.-born populations” from other nations, plus Puerto Rico. The stats are tracked as “net” moves – arrivals minus departures. The counts also includes relocations of military personnel.

Caveats noted, what does my trusty spreadsheet tell us about this measurement of population flow from outside the US – looking at the year ended July 2022 vs. the pre-pandemic pace of 2010-2019?

Well, California added 125,715 foreign immigrants last year. How big is that?

It’s roughly the population of cities like Simi Valley or Clovis. And the inflow is on par with California’s combined 2022 arrivals from Texas, Washington, New York, and Florida.

No state took in more immigrants. And roughly one of every eight US arrivals from other nations in 2022 ended up in the Golden State.

By the way, No. 2 for immigrants was Florida at 125,629, followed by Texas at 118,614, New York at 77,923, and Massachusetts at 43,880.

And where didn’t immigrants go last year? Wyoming had just 342, then Vermont’s 1,012, North Dakota’s 1,268, Mississippi’s 1,593, and West Virginia’s 1,773.

Growth story

This inflow pace has quickened.

California arrivals from other nations were 14% above the 2010-19 average, and that jump ranked just 30th among the states. Note that this immigration was up 19% nationally vs. the pre-pandemic norm.

Where were the biggest jumps vs. the last decade? Nevada was up 320%, then Montana at 162%, West Virginia at 144%, New Mexico at 105% and Maine at 102%.

The biggest declines were in Rhode Island, off 30%, then Mississippi, down 22%, Kentucky, down 18%, Hawaii, down 11% and Michigan, down 10%.

As for California’s big rivals, Texas was 17th with a 34% jump while Florida was 37th at 5%.

Slices of the pie

Now let’s put this population bump into another perspective – foreign immigration’s slice of a state’s population.

California’s 2022 intake equals 32 immigrants per 10,000 residents, No. 13 among the states and slightly above the nation’s 30 per 10,000 nationally.

The highest intake per capita was found in Washington, D.C. at 68, then Massachusetts at 63, Florida at 56, Washington at 48, and Connecticut at 45. Texas was No. 10 at 39. The lows were found in Mississippi at 5, Wyoming at 6, Alabama at 9, and Idaho and Kentucky at 10.

Bottom line

Foreign immigrants – legal or not – range from the highly educated helping to power high-tech work to migrant workers helping to harvest our food to folks simply wanting a better life.

Supporters say they’re needed for the skills, especially in an age where population growth is challenged for a host of reasons.

Consider that California’s overall population fell by 483,000 between 2019 and 2022, the largest decline among the states. The Golden State averaged 244,000 extra residents every year in 2010-19, third-best in the nation.

Plus, US population grew by a mere 0.3% last year vs. 0.7% average annual growth in 2010-19.

Yet immigration critics, politely put, say the nation can’t afford the foreign inflow.

Debate aside, immigrants are a relatively modest share of the overall population. Yet, they’re a noteworthy chunk of all folks who arrived from elsewhere in many parts of the nation.

Foreign immigrants equaled 21% of all of California’s 2022 arrivals – 125,715 from other nations plus 475,000 from other states. That’s the largest share among the states. Nationally, foreign immigrants averaged 11% of a state’s total population inflow – roughly half of California.

After California on this ranking came New York and Massachusetts at 20%, New Jersey at 18%, Texas at 15% and Florida at 14.5%.

And where were foreigners the smallest slice of new residents? Wyoming at 1.2%, Idaho at 2.1%, Mississippi at 2.2%, Alabama at 3.2%, and Tennessee at 3.5%.

Jonathan Lansner is the business columnist for the Southern California News Group. He can be reached at

Source: Orange County Register

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