New Politics Institute

Is America Still a Top Destination for Immigrants?

American exceptionalism has become a theme of our immigration debate.  From both sides, we hear that America is a uniquely desirable place that, for good or ill, draws an outsized share of the world’s immigrants.  The truth of this matter is that large-scale immigration is a worldwide phenomenon tied to contemporary globalization.  Porous borders and rising education levels have allowed tens of millions of people in developing societies to become more mobile, and new communications and transportation technologies give everyone access to information about other countries and ways to get there.  Perhaps most important, rising global demand has created vast new opportunities for foreign labor – whether it’s to bolster shrinking labor pools across much of Europe, provide services in thinly-populated, oil-rich countries in the Middle East, or cater to wealthy global elites in dozens of tax havens.

So, despite dire warnings that U.S. immigration reform will set off another invasion of America by new immigrants, the data show that many other countries are stronger magnets for foreign workers than the United States.  In fact, when it comes to foreign-born residents, America looks fairly average.

It is true that more foreign-born people live in America today than anywhere else.  But that’s mainly because we are a very large country, with more native-born people as well than anywhere except China and India.  And most of our immigrants came here with our permission: Two-thirds of all foreign-born people living in the United States are naturalized citizens or legal permanent resident aliens, and another 4 percent have legal status as temporary migrants.  That leaves about 30 percent who are undocumented.   

Consider the percentages of foreign-born residents living today in various nations:  America with just under 13 percent of its population foreign-born, according to U.N. data, ranks 40th in the world for immigrants as a share of the population.  By contrast, across the 10 most immigrant-intensive countries, foreign-born people account for between 77 percent and 42 percent of their total populations. 

These unusually high proportions of immigrants appear to be generally linked to global trade and finance.  In the top 10, for example, we first set aside the special cases of Macau and Hong Kong, whose Chinese populations are counted as foreign-born, and Vatican City.  Of the remaining seven nations, four are in the Middle-East – Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, and Bahrain – where tens of thousands of foreign workers are needed to help meet global demand for oil and provide services for native populations grown wealthy off of their oil.  The other three countries in the top 10 are global tax havens and financial centers – Andorra, Monaco, and Singapore -- that draw thousands of global elites followed by foreign workers to provide their services.  

The next 10 most immigrant-heavy countries, where foreign-born persons comprise between 42 percent and 22 percent of their populations, include five more tax havens (Nauru in Micronesia, Luxembourg, Lichtenstein, San Marino, and Switzerland) and three more oil rich, Middle Eastern countries (Saudi Arabia, Oman, and Brunei).  The two others in this group are the special cases of Israel, where Jewish national identity is the draw, and Jordan, home to tens of thousands of people displaced by the Iraqi and Israel-Arab conflicts.

Beyond the top 20 countries for foreign-born residents, numerous other nations that more closely resemble the United States, in economic opportunities and social benefits, also draw immigrants in greater relative numbers than America.  For example, some 19 percent to 20 percent of the populations of Australia and Canada are foreign-born, compared to our 13 percent.  Austria, Ireland, New Zealand and Norway also lead the United States in immigrants as a share of their populations, as do the smaller and less-advanced nations of Estonia, Latvia, Belize, Ukraine, Croatia, and Cyprus.   A similar pattern emerges from OECD data covering 25 industrialized countries from 2001 to 2010.  Over that decade, the share of the American population born somewhere else has averaged 12.1 percent.  By this measure, the United States trails not only such countries as Australia, Austria, Canada, Luxembourg, Switzerland and Israel, as noted above, but also Sweden, Germany, and Belgium. 

This pattern also does not change much when we look at the most recent, annual “net migration rates” of various countries (2012).  That’s a standard demographic measure calculated by taking the number of people coming into a country, less the number of people who leave, and divide by 1,000.   Using that measure, the United States ranked 26th in the world.   At 3.6 net immigrants per-1,000 in 2012, we trail far behind three oil-rich countries averaging 24.1 net immigrants per-1,000 (Qatar, UAE, and Bahrain), 13 tax havens averaging 10.8 per-1,000 (from the British Virgin Islands and the Isle of Man, to the Cayman Islands and Luxembourg), and two countries that have become sanctuaries for refugees (Botswana and Djibouti at 14.9 per 1,000).  In addition, at least four other advanced countries also had much higher net migration rates last year -- Australia, Canada, Spain and Italy, averaging 5.3 net immigrants per-1,000 or a rate nearly 50 percent higher than for the United States.

Given the role of labor demand in migration flows and the particular demand in the United States for skilled workers, it is also unsurprising that, according to the Census Bureau, almost 70 percent of foreign-born people residing here, by age 25 or older, are high school graduates.  In fact, nearly 30 percent hold college degrees, the same share as native-born Americans.  On the less-skilled part of the distribution, of course, we find many undocumented male immigrants.  But as we showed in a 2011 analysis for NDN and the New Politics Institute,  undocumented male immigrants also have the highest labor participation rates in the country:  Among men age 18 to 64 years, 94 percent of undocumented immigrants work or actively seek work, compared to 83 percent of native-born Americans, and 85 percent of immigrants with legal status.

On balance, the data show that the United States is not home to an unusually large share of immigrants, legal and otherwise.  As globalization has increased the demand for labor in dozens of countries while lowering the barriers to people moving to other places for work, America has become fairly average as a worldwide destination.   

This post was originally published in Dr. Shapiro's blog

Mark Udall's Internet Ads

Any one else notice the now ubiquitous Mark Udall banner ads on the big progressive blogs?  They are among the best I've seen this year.  Attractive, message-based, animated, about "joining," not about "giving."  They are setting a new standard for ads below the presidential level, and are clearly inspired by the success of Obama's deep success on the Internet. 

For more on how to best use the Internet in your advocacy work, visit our affiliate, the New Politics Institute, where you can find papers on to buy ads on the Internet, how to buy search and how to optimize your site for search engines, how to engage the blogs and the role of "influentials" in all marketing.  It is a powerful package and very much worth reviewing. 

Big drama on cable TV tonight

Whatever ends up happening tonight, the drama in the air -- and on the air -- will surely yield extraordinary viewerships on the various cable TV networks, of course, benefitting both Obama and Clinton. I certainly am planning on watching.

But what the unfolding drama reminds us is how powerful cable TV news has become in recent years. Most of the too many debates this year happened on a cable network. A great deal of the strong analysis - particularly by John King on CNN - has happened on cable. Cable TV news had a banner year, and is well-poised to drive the election coverage more than any other single news outlet this fall.

At NPI, we've written a great deal about how TV and video are changing. For those in the advocacy business, be sure to check out our series on the growing power of cable itself, which can be found over at NPI's site,

Update: Reuters has a good piece today looking at how much cable news has benefitted from the long primary season.

Great event today, more coming up

NDN has a very aggressive schedule over the next few weeks. I'll be involved in many of these events, and am excited to reconnect with many of you.

Today in DC, we host an excellent event on how the most important medium of politics, television, is changing. It will showcase a remarkable panel of experts, including the head of audience research for TiVo, who among other things, will be discussing the impact of DVRs on how people are now relating to their TV. You won't want to miss this one.

Next Monday, I will be in New York hosting a forum on the growing power of the Millennial Generation, the largest generation in American history. Joining us will be Morley Winograd and Mike Hais, the two authors of a critically acclaimed new book, Millennial Makeover, and the man who introduced us to the whole Millennial concept, something NPI has done a great job promoting the last few years. Also joining us will be two people who work closely with Millennials, Jon Schnur of New Leaders for New Schools and Alicia Menendez of Rock the Vote.

The following Monday, May 5, again in New York City, I will be hosting a Bernard Schwartz Forum on Economic Policy that will celebrate the compelling new book of our Globalization Initiative Chairman, Dr. Robert Shapiro. Rob's book is a far-reaching look at how the world is likely to play out over the next 15 to 20 years, and the forum will be a discussion you won't want to miss. It will also be a good opportunity to talk politics and look at what is happening on the national stage these days.

Finally, I'll be back in DC on May 9, where Peter Leyden and I will be hosting a day-long working session on the important new tools and new audiences critical to 21st century politics. This event will feature several plenary sessions but will also include 10 or so breakouts to help our family drill down further on specific tools or demographics you might want to learn more about. We've got a terrifc line up of speakers and panelists, which you won't want to miss.

Of course there is more than even all this. We are hosting U.S. Rep. Barney Frank on May 20 here in DC, and have many more events in the hopper that we hope to announce soon. Additionally, the able NDN/NPI team is producing a great deal of new and dynamic content each day, which is best viewed here on our blog.

So keep coming back here, and I hope to catch many of you at our many interesting events over the next few weeks.

A new kind of ad by Barack

To see a whole new kind of 21st century political ad check out the new Obama ad on the main page of the Dallas Morning News running this morning. Don't know how long it will be up there so go now - and it will be hard to miss.

For more on how to use a new whole new generation of tools to improve your capacity to advocate visit the New Politics Institute and our "New Tools" campaign there.

“this business isn’t about G.R.P.’s anymore"

This quote comes from yet another Times piece taking a look at the how the important tool of modern advocacy, television, is being reinvented.

In our work at NPI we've written a great deal about how the hegemony of broadcast television is being challenged by the rise of cable and satellite, digitial video recording devices and other new powerful tools like mobile phones, google search ads and youtube. This article takes a look at how the very economic model of what we have known as "TV" is changing.

Learning about how this very important advocacy tool - TV - is changing needs to be high priority for all of us in the progressive movement, for TV has been the primary tool of political advocacy for the last 40 plus years. The big picture here is that video itself is in the process of being liberated from the monopoly distribution of broadcast, and is increasingly being distributed through satellite, cable, mobile phones and the internet, and thus is becoming much more ubiquitous, accessable and commonplace. There is perhaps no more important and more radical change in modern advocacy than what is happening to what we know as "TV" - and there is much more to come.

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