Percentage of Public School Students from Immigrant Households

This analysis merges Census Bureau data with Google maps to provide a visual representation of immigration’s impact on public schools at the local level. The report is based on Public Use Microdata Areas, which average about 20,600 students and allow for detailed analysis in densely populated areas. We also report statistics by state and metropolitan area. The findings show that the impact of immigration on public schools is truly enormous in many areas of the country.

The number of children from immigrant households in schools is now so high in some areas that it raises profound questions about assimilation. What’s more, immigration has added enormously to the number of public school students who are in poverty and the number who speak a foreign language. This cannot help but create significant challenges for schools, often in areas already struggling to educate students who come from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Among the findings:

    – Almost one out of four (23 percent) public school students in the United States came from an immigrant household in 2015. As recently as 1990 it was 11 percent, and in 1980 it was just 7 percent.

    – In 2015, between one-fourth and one-third of public school students from immigrant households were the children of illegal immigrants; the remainder were the children from legal immigrant households.2

    – Immigrant households are concentrated; just 700 Census Bureau-designated PUMAs account for two-thirds of students from immigrant households, these same PUMAs account for nearly one-third of total public school enrollment.

    – In these 700 immigrant-heavy areas, half the students are from immigrant households.

    – There are many PUMAs in which well more than half of the students are from immigrant households, for example:
        93 percent in Northeast Dade County, North Central Hialeah City, Fla.
        91 percent in Jackson Heights and North Corona, New York City, N.Y.
        85 percent in Westpark Tollway between Loop I-610 & Beltway Houston, Texas.
        83 percent in El Monte and South El Monte Cities, Calif.
        78 percent in Annandale & West Falls Church, Va.
        74 percent in Fort Lee, Cliffside Park & Palisades Park, N.J.

    – In the top 700 immigrant-heavy areas, one sending country typically predominates. On average, the top sending country accounts for 52 percent of students from immigrant households in these areas.3

    – On average, students from immigrant households live in a PUMA in which 41 percent of their fellow public school students are also from immigrant households. In contrast, on average students from native households live in a PUMA in which 17 percent of students are from immigrant households.

    – Immigration has added disproportionately to the number of low-income students in public schools. In 2015, 28 percent of public school students from immigrant households lived in poverty and they accounted for 30 percent of all students living below the poverty line.

    – Immigrants often settle in areas of high poverty, adding to the challenges for schools in these areas. In the 200 PUMAs with the highest poverty rates in the country, where poverty among students averages 46 percent, nearly one-third of students are from immigrant households.

    – Immigration has added enormously to the population of students who speak a foreign language. In 2015, 23 percent of public school students spoke a language other than English at home. This compares to 14 percent in 1990 and 9 percent in 1980.4

    – On average, public school students who themselves speak a foreign language at home live in an area in which 42 percent of their fellow students also speak a foreign language at home.

    – Though one language often predominates in an area, many local schools struggle to deal with a multiplicity of foreign languages, which likely creates enormous challenges. In 315 PUMAs (combined enrollment 6.7 million) 10 or more foreign languages are spoken by public school students.5

    – In addition to adding large numbers of students in poverty and for whom English is not their first language, immigration also creates significant challenges for schools because immigrants have lower incomes, making it unlikely that tax revenue grows correspondingly with enrollment in areas of high immigration.6

    – Some of the metropolitan areas where students from immigrant households account for the largest share of enrollment include: San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif., 60 percent; Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, Calif., 57 percent; Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, Fla., 54 percent; McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, Texas, 50 percent; San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, Calif., 50 percent; Yuma, Ariz., 50 percent; Naples-Immokalee-Marco Island, Fla., 46 percent; Laredo, Texas, 45 percent; Las Cruces, N.M., 44 percent; New York-Newark-Jersey City, 44 percent; Yakima, Wash., 44 percent; Fresno, Calif., 43 percent; Trenton, N.J., 42 percent; Brownsville-Harlingen, Texas, 42 percent; Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, Nev., 38 percent; Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, 37 percent; Gainesville, Ga., 36 percent.


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