The latest U.S. immigration statistics

Between January 2000 and March 2005, 7.9 million new immigrants (legal and illegal) settled in the country, making it the highest five-year period of immigration in American history. Nearly half of post-2000 arrivals (3.7 million) are estimated to be illegal aliens. Immigrants account for 12.1 percent of the total population, the highest percentage in 8 decades. If current trends continue, within a decade it will surpass the high of 14.7 percent reached in 1910.

Of adult immigrants, 31 percent have not completed high school, three-and-a-half times the rate for natives. Since 1990, immigration has increased the number of such low-skilled workers by 25 percent, while increasing the supply of all other workers by only 6 percent. Immigrants were once significantly more likely to have a college degree, but the new data show that natives are now as likely as immigrants to have a bachelor's or graduate degree.

The proportion of immigrant-headed households using at least one major welfare program is 29 percent, compared to 18 percent for native households. The poverty rate of immigrants and their U.S.-born children (under 18) is 18.4 percent, 57 percent higher than the 11.7 percent for natives and their children. Immigrants and their children account for almost one in four persons in poverty. Immigrants make significant economic progress the longer they live in the United States, but even immigrants who have lived here for 15 years still have dramatically higher rates of poverty, lack of health insurance, and welfare use than natives.

The low educational level of many immigrants, and resulting low wages, are the primary reasons so many live in poverty, use welfare programs, or lack insurance - not their legal status or an unwillingness to work.

Immigration accounts for virtually all of the national increase in public school enrollment over the last two decades. In 2005, there were 10.3 million school-age children from immigrant families in the United States.

Recent immigration has had no significant impact on the nation's age structure. Without the 7.9 million post-2000 immigrants, the average age in America would be virtually unchanged at 36 years.

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