Generations through time: Immigration

Alexander Fishkov

Alexander Fishkov, Ph.D. student Computer Science

Throughout history, the U.S. has been seen as a place of tremendous opportunity and progress. Many people took the challenge to pursue a new life in this country, and many of them stayed. However, western society has not stayed the same — each generation was influenced by different economic and social events. In this post, we will explore how migration patterns changed with each new generation.

Name Born Adult Survey we used
Boomers I
(Baby Boomers)
1946-1954 1963-1972 Census 2000
Boomers II
(Generation Jones)
1955-1965 1973-1983 ACS 2005
Generation X 1966-1976 1988-1994 ACS 2010
Generation Y 1977-1994 1998-2006 ACS 2015
Generation Z 1995-2012 2013-2020 ACS 2015

We will use the same definitions of generations as in our previous post on this topic while choosing more recent Census years. We will look at the number of foreign-born respondents and their home countries for each generation.

Generation X demonstrates the lowest ratio of native-born residents at 78 percent. This number is almost 10 percent lower than the first Boomer generation. The youngest generation, Generation Z, shows the highest percentage of U.S.-born residents. This is not surprising, given that the oldest of them only just reached 21. It is likely to change in the future since many exchange students and expatriates are still coming to the U.S.

The data doesn’t show any noticeable differences between genders — being foreign-born is equally likely between men and women for all generations.

Countries including Mexico, Canada, India, China, South Korea, Vietnam, the Philippines, Germany and many Central American countries top the list. This list has stayed mostly unchanged for all generations, although the exact rankings have changed.

Mexico has been the largest source of migrants among all countries, making up to 20-25 percent of foreign-born residents. The Philippines followed during the Boomer generations with 4.4-5.7 percent. During the first Boomers generation, Germany and Vietnam occupied third and fourth places with around 3.5 percent, surpassing China and India. In the following Boomers II generation, China and India moved ahead.

Among Generations X, Y and Z, two trends are very noticeable. First, Mexico’s share of immigration declined (after Gen X’s peak of 27 percent), and second, China’s share began to grow, ultimately exceeding that of India in Generation Z. According to the latest ACS data, 21 percent of foreign-born millennials in the U.S. are from Mexico, while 6 percent come from China and 4 percent from India.

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About Alexander Fishkov

Alexander Fishkov

Alexander Fishkov, Ph.D. student Computer Science

Alexander is a Ph.D. student in Computer Science. He currently holds B.S. and M.S. degrees in Applied Math. He has experience working for industry major companies performing research in the fields of machine learning, data mining and natural language processing. In his free time, Alexander enjoys hiking, Nordic skiing and traveling.

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