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Using data from the U.S. Census Bureau, authors Rae Rosen, Susan Wieler and Joseph Pereira examine the demographic and labor market characteristics of New York City's most recent adult immigrants—those who arrived in the United States between 1990 and 2000 and were residents of the city at the time of the 2000 national census. The large influx of immigrants during this period is important, the authors suggest, because it has helped sustain the city's population growth and will continue to influence the size and skill level of the city's workforce.
From 1990 to 2000, more than 1.3 million people left New York City for nearby suburbs and other states, while 1.2 million foreign immigrants flowed into the city. This enormous turnover in the population continued trends established in earlier decades, with the result that by 2000, fully 45 percent of the adult population in New York City was foreign born.
While the immigrants who arrived in the 1990s are on average better educated than their predecessors, there is great variation in both educational levels and English proficiency among different groups, according to Rosen, Wieler and Pereira. The authors’ analysis of U. S. census data shows that some groups—primarily from Asia—have considerably higher college graduation rates than native-born city residents, while substantial percentages of other immigrant groups—primarily those from Latin America, the Caribbean and Mexico—arrive without English language competency or a high school diploma.
Rosen, Wieler and Pereira conclude that it is important to facilitate the integration of the city’s large immigrant population into the workforce. They recommend a variety of approaches, including assistance with job searches, vocational training and efforts to increase English language proficiency.
Rae Rosen is an assistant vice president and Susan Wieler an economist in the Bank’s Public Information department; Joseph Pereira is director of the CUNY Data Service at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.