Illegal Immigrants Estimated to Account for 1 in 12 U.S. Births

Miriam Jordan, Wall Street Journal, August 12, 2010

One in 12 babies born in the U.S. in 2008 were offspring of illegal immigrants, according to a new study, an estimate that could inflame the debate over birthright citizenship.

Undocumented immigrants make up slightly more than 4% of the U.S. adult population. However, their babies represented twice that share, or 8%, of all births on U.S. soil in 2008, according to the nonpartisan Pew Hispanic Center’s report.

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The report, based on Pew’s analysis of the Census Bureau’s March 2009 Current Population Survey, also found that the lion’s share, or 79%, of the 5.1 million children of illegal immigrants residing in the U.S. in 2009 were born in the country and are therefore citizens.

In total, about 11 million undocumented immigrants live in the U.S. Latinos account for 75% of undocumented U.S. immigrants and about 85% of the births among that population.

A spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a national group that lobbies for curbing immigration, said Wednesday its studies have yielded numbers similar to those estimated by Pew.

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Proponents of amending the 14th Amendment, which was enacted in 1868, say it was intended to guarantee citizenship to freed slaves after the Civil War, not the offspring of illegal immigrants. Their proposals are expected to appeal to conservative Republican voters as immigration emerges as a central issue in November’s elections.

GOP opponents of repealing birthright citizenship say it undermines the party’s electoral prospects among Hispanics, the nation’s largest minority and fastest-growing group. Generally, Democrats are strongly opposed to repeal.

Mr. Passel said that the Pew analysis found that more than 80% of the undocumented immigrant mothers who gave birth in the U.S. had been in the country at least a year, and that many had been here about a decade.

[The full Pew report, “Unauthorized Immigrants and Their U.S.-Born Children,” can be downloaded as a PDF file here.]


An estimated 340,000 of the 4.3 million babies born in the United States in 2008 were the offspring of unauthorized immigrants, according to a new analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data by the Pew Hispanic Center, a project of the Pew Research Center.

Unauthorized immigrants comprise slightly more than 4% of the adult population of the U.S., but because they are relatively young and have high birthrates, their children make up a much larger share of both the newborn population (8%) and the child population (7% of those younger than age 18) in this country.

These figures are based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s March 2009 Current Population Survey, augmented with the Pew Hispanic Center’s analysis of the demographic characteristics of the unauthorized immigrant population using a “residual estimation methodology” it has employed for the past five years. (For a description, see Appendix B in the full report.)

The new Pew Hispanic analysis finds that nearly four-in-five (79%) of the 5.1 million children (younger than age 18) of unauthorized immigrants were born in this country and therefore are U.S. citizens.

In total, 4 million U.S.-born children of unauthorized immigrant parents resided in this country in 2009, alongside 1.1 million foreign-born children of unauthorized immigrant parents.

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[The full report, “Unauthorized Immigrants and Their U.S.-Born Children,” can be downloaded as a PDF file here.]

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