Where do Immigrants Settle in the US?

While looking for migration data, I happened across this incredible tool from the Migration Policy Institute. It displays Census data showing where international migrants to the US settle by Metropolitan area.

This is not only quite fun to play around with, it’s actually extremely useful. It can be hard to find out where immigrant groups settle with a direct internet search – you usually have to rely on imprecise proxies like “what cities have a lot of Nepalese restaurants?” I recently tried to find out where the epicenter of Beninese immigration to the United States was, and beyond locating the embassy in Washington, DC, I wasn’t very successful.

Indian Distribution
Indian Immigrants are scattered throughout the country, even in very small metros.
Indian Distribution
There are far fewer immigrants from Bosnia and Herzegovina and they tend to be much more concentrated. Utica, NY, Des Moines and St. Louis all have high Bosnian location quotients.

Especially interesting in this graphic is the inclusion of both raw numbers (reflected in size of the circle) and percentage of population (color of the circle). I think it’s fascinating that although Minneapolis has a higher number of Laotians than any other city, the smaller Laotian community in Fresno makes up more than 1% of the entire metro area. As soon as I get some more sophisticated mapping skills, I’d like to reform this data to answer a different question. I want to make a graphic showing which immigrant populations a particular MSA punches way above its weight in. For economic development nerds, it would be neat to see a graphic representation of the various “location quotients” of immigrant communities in cities or even Census blocks.

For now, here are some fun facts that I learned from poking around the map.

  • Atlantic City, NJ has the highest percentage of Bangladeshi immigrants.
  • Worcester, MA has the highest percentage of both Albanians and Ghanaians in its population.
  • Fort Wayne, IN is home to a higher concentration of Burmese than any other city.
  • Moldovans and Belorussians are highly concentrated in Sacramento.

Some facts are of limited usefulness: although Atlantic City has the highest percentage of Bangladeshi immigrants, the community in nearby New York City is 38 times its size. Still, I suspect a better understanding of where and how immigrant groups cluster would be useful to public officials and service providers, and relative size of the community could still be indicative of the size of the need. It also makes for an interesting look at the cultural fabric of cities.

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