Mexican Immigrant Population Largest in United States

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New U.S. citizen Davies Garcia, 11, originally from Mexico, holds an American flag during a naturalization ceremony conducted by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), on September 14, 2018 in Los Angeles, California.
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The largest group of immigrants in the United States in 2021 was from Mexico, according to data analysis by the Migration Policy Institute (MPI). 

However, while the Mexican immigrant population dramatically outpaced Indian immigrants (the second largest group at 6%) in 2021, only 23.6% of all immigrants arrived from Mexico. MPI explains that 44.4% of immigrants to the U.S. arrived from a smattering of other countries: “For countries not in the top ten, the immigrant population is aggregated in the ‘other countries’ category. The growth of this category over time indicates that the immigrant population comes from increasingly diverse national origins.”

The American immigrant populations in 2021 are also vastly different from those in 1960, the first data MPI included in their analysis. That year, Italian immigrants were the largest group with 12.9%, with “other countries” representing 28.8%.

The MPI clarifies that the “term ‘immigrants’ (also known as the foreign born) refers to people residing in the United States who were not U.S. citizens at birth. This population includes naturalized citizens, lawful permanent residents (LPRs), certain legal nonimmigrants (e.g., persons on student or work visas), those admitted under refugee or asylee status, and persons illegally residing in the United States.”

The top 10 counties in 2021 were:

Mexico 23.6%

India 6.0%

China 5.3%

Philippines 4.4%

Vietnam 3.0%

El Salvador 3.1%

Cuba 2.8%

Dominican Republic 2.8%

Guatemala 2.4%

Korea 2.2%

The top 10 countries in 1960 were:

Italy 12.9%

Germany 10.2%

Canada 9.8%

United Kingdom 8.6%

Poland 7.7%

Soviet Union 7.1%

Mexico 5.9%

Ireland 3.5%

Austria 3.1%

Hungary 2.5%

Discussion Questions

1. Prior to reading this article, did you have assumptions about American immigrants’ countries of birth? For example, did you assume more immigrants were from Mexico? Explain your answer(s).

2. What historical events and policies might have contributed to the differences between the immigrant populations in 1960 and 2021?


Migration Policy Institute, “Largest U.S. Immigrant Groups over Time, 1960-Present,” (accessed Apr. 24, 2023)