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some statistics about immigration

There are numerous ways to consider how many immigrants are in a country so lets look as some of them. First, we have to decide whether we are considering immigrant inflows bounded by a time period or immigrants in totality. Immigrant inflows refer to how many immigrants move to a country in a given time frame.

This 2012 Forbes article looks at the inflow of immigrants by year. And in terms of annual inflow (how many immigrants come to a country each year) the US is #1 with about a million immigrants moving to the US each year.

However, as the same article points out, given the size of the us, it's not all that surprising that more immigrants should come to the US each year. If we consider annual immigrant inflows relative to the size of the populationthe US ranks #22. That same million annual immigrants entering the US account for a mere 0.4% of the population.

The Forbes article goes on to consider the totality of immigrants (foreign-born) in the country relative to the size of the country. Using this metric, the US comes in #12 with 12.1% of the country made up of immigrants (remember that the Forbes article is from 2012).

Given the last two stats, it may seem that the US's cherished idea of itself as an immigrant-receiving country is not nearly as fact-based as one would think. However, there are still additional ways to consider immigrant statistics. For example, we could also consider the total number of international immigrants worldwide and ask what percentage of this group reside in the US. Using this metric, the US once again moves to the top according to the UN Population Division's Trends in International Migrant Stock: The 2015 Revision report. The number of international migrants reached 244 million worldwide and about 47 million reside in the US or about 19% of the world's international migrants. Meanwhile, that 47 million makes up 14.49% of the US population (again, placing the US in the middle of the pack). 

So how should we look at these numbers? Which ones should we focus on? Of course, they're all important and are giving us different ways to think about immigration flows and stocks. Yes, the percentage of immigrants relative to the population means that the US is not at the top, but it also seems silly to think that any country would take in as many immigrants as the US does given that some countries may be quite small. Forty-seven million immigrants is larger than the size of many countries (for reference, consider that the population of France was about 64.7 million people in 2015)! Yet, it seems equally foolish to condemn the US for not taking in more international immigrants when it already has close to 20% of world's immigrant population.

Here's an interactive map from MPI's Data Hub that shows immigrant and emigrant populations by country.

Referenced and for further reading:


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