Where do immigrants go?

The geographic distribution of immigrants leads to some of the biggest complaints about cross-national migration. Disproportionate numbers of immigrants go to California, Texas, and New York. Potential problems include school overcrowding, fiscal burdens on local governments and hospitals, and weaker incentives to assimilate. I’ve heard claims that it would be fine to take in extra immigrants, provided they would work on company towns in central Nebraska.

The question arises to what extent distributional problems are self-correcting. If a state declines in quality, some immigrants will start to look elsewhere. It resembles yesterday’s question of whether a blogging topic can become overcrowded.

We now have some recent evidence. For the first time in thirty years, immigrants are finding California a less appealing place to settle. The 2000 census measures 24.8 percent of all new arrivals going to California, down from 37.6 percent in the 1990 tally. New York arrivals are down as well, from 13.7 percent of the share to 11.8 percent. Those changes are so big that virtually every other state has a bigger share of the total, with Texas, Georgia, and North Carolina showing the largest gains.

The results also show that poverty is declining among both established and arriving immigrants in California, heralding positive future trends.

Here is coverage from USA Today. Here is the original research. Here is the home page of Dowell Myers of USC, the researcher.

The bottom line: Good news all around. A more even spread of immigrants, achieved by voluntary means, will ease California’s fiscal burdens and bring gains from trade to the other states.


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