Under the Census microscope: Immigrant Minnesotans


A look at the origins of Minnesotans born in other countries reveals a tapestry of an estimated 339,680 foreign-born Minnesotans from around the globe.

A country of birth table from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Annual Community Survey for the years 2006-2008 reported an estimated 339,680 foreign-born Minnesotans. They accounted for 6.6 percent of the state’s population, and 8.8 percent of the people living in the Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI Metro Area (roughly the Twin Cities metro area). Nationally, 12.5 percent of the country is foreign-born.

Of Minnesota’s immigrant population, 146,976 (43 percent) were naturalized U.S. citizens. They have come to this country steadily over the decades – 36.5 percent entered the U.S. in the last decade, 32.5 entered during the 1990s, and the other 31 percent entered the country before 1990.

The largest populations by region or country of birth were from Southeastern Asia, Latin America (especially Mexico) and Eastern Africa. Below is a breakdown of where the state’s foreign-born residents are from.

Where are we from?

Asia: 125,665

Asians accounted for the highest percentage of foreign-born Minnesotans, the largest group coming from Southeastern Asia (66,281), especially Laos (25,771) and Vietnam (15,928) – presumably comprising the state’s large Hmong population. Eastern Asians numbered 27,989, including Chinese (12,206) and Korean (13,131). South Central Asians numbered 26,236, primarily from India (18,297). Western Asians (as in the Middle East) numbered 4,803.

The Americas: 103,848

The vast majority in this category came from Latin America (91,522). Of those, 71,188 were from Central America, under which the survey classified Mexicans (59,382). Other countries included Guatemala (4,568), El Salvador (3,791) and Honduras (2,089). 4,189 hailed from the Caribbean, including 1,062 Cubans.

Ecuadorans (5,238) accounted for nearly one-third of the 16,145 South Americans, followed by Guyana (2,698) and Colombia (2,519). All but 21 of the 12,326 estimated people from “Northern America” were Canadian.

Africa: 62,638

Eastern Africans numbered 37,695. Only two countries were specified: Ethiopia (11,510) and Kenya (5,704), with more than half (20,481) under the category “other Eastern Africa,” presumably including the state’s large Somali-born population.

Western Africans (16,206) included Minnesota’s Liberian population of 8,235, with another 4,063 from Nigeria. Northern Africans numbered 4,478, including 1,651 from Egypt, the only country specified.

Europe: 46, 306

More than half of the state’s Europeans came from Eastern Europe (24,609). Russia (7,213), Bosnia and Herzegovina (3,120) and Ukraine (2,951) led those numbers, with nearly 6,000 defined as “other Eastern Europe.” The state’s 6,843 Germans led the Western European population of 10,686. Northern Europeans (the United Kingdom, Ireland, etc.) numbered 8,930.

Oceania: 1,223

More than half of the state’s Oceania population came from Australia (558) and New Zealand.

Immigrants as a whole, compared to state totals

The ACS data on Minnesota’s immigrants as a whole paint a broad-brush portrait of a population generally on par with the state’s total population, with the following exceptions. Foreign-born Minnesotans were a slightly older group, with more than a third (39.3 percent) 25-44 years old and fewer (10.3 percent) under the age of 18, compared to the 24.2 percent under-18 population of the state as a whole.

More were married, and slightly more (67 percent) lived in married-couple households. Likewise, 67 percent lived in owner-occupied homes (compared to 75 percent for the state). More than three-quarters spoke a language other than English in the home. More were enrolled in college or graduate school (45 percent of immigrants to 26 percent for all Minnesotans), but more had less than a high school education (20 percent of immigrants to 9 percent for all Minnesotans).

Unemployment was slightly higher, at 4.5 percent in 2006-2008.

Median earnings for full-time, year-round workers were lower, at $36,729 for men ($49,391 for the whole state) and $31,381 for women ($37,776 for the whole state). The median household income was only $3,000 less than the state median of $57,795, however.

Poverty rates were higher than the state totals across the board, including for all families (17 percent versus 6.4 percent), female householders with no husband present (43.3 percent versus 25.4 percent) and single mothers with children (49.4 percent versus 32.2 percent).

Note on graphics: Statistics and regions were chosen by the author, and data was not available for all demographics.