Immigration has become a major driver of population growth in Philadelphia in recent years, with long-term demographic and economic implications for the city and the region.
In 2016, the last year for which census data were available for this report, the city had more than 232,000 residents who were born abroad, an increase of 69 percent since 2000. These immigrants represented nearly 15 percent of all city residents, 19 percent of workers, and 14 percent of those living in poverty.
More than a quarter of all Philadelphians in recent years—estimated at around 390,000 residents—were either immigrants or U.S. natives with immigrant parents, together comprising a population with significant potential to shape the city. They included nearly 76,000 children under age 18, or about 1 in 4 city children.
The degree to which immigrants have fueled the city’s population resurgence is striking. From 2000 to 2016, a period in which the city’s population grew for the first time in half a century, the number of foreign-born residents rose by roughly 95,000 while the number of U.S.-born Philadelphians fell by 44,500.
This statistical portrait of immigrants in Philadelphia was compiled with the goal of informing discussion about their impact on the city. The report looks at the economic and social characteristics of immigrants—including their countries of origin, income, level of education, and work status—and examines how those characteristics have changed in recent years, while also making comparisons with the nation, the Philadelphia suburbs, and nine other major cities: Baltimore; Boston; Denver; Minneapolis; New York; Portland, Oregon; San Jose, California; Seattle; and Washington.
The study relies primarily on census data and includes results of a public opinion survey taken by The Pew Charitable Trusts in 2016. In that survey, immigrants were overwhelmingly upbeat about the city’s future and more positive than U.S.-born Philadelphians about certain elements of city life, such as public schools. Most U.S.-born Philadelphians, for their part, had positive things to say about immigration, and nearly two-thirds described themselves as “sympathetic” or “very sympathetic” to unauthorized immigrants in the city.
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