Foreign-born on the Rise in Colorado

Population growth fastest in U.S.

Colorado’s foreign-born population nearly tripled this past
decade and is growing faster than any other state’s, according to
an analysis of new U.S. Census Bureau data.

In 1990, 142,000 Coloradans, or 4.3 percent, were born
abroad. Last year, 413,000, or nearly 10 percent, were born

The newcomers arrived from all over, with the greatest
numbers from Mexico, East Asia, Europe and Africa. They’re
changing the face of almost every street: a hockey-loving Denver
bus driver from Mexico, an Ethiopian woman who cooks spicy meats
on East Colfax, a cancer researcher from Russia who also runs a

The influx over the past decade was far more pronounced than
in traditionally international states such as New York and

And considering the rapidly increasing foreign migration into
other interior states such as Nevada, Kentucky, Iowa and Arizona,
experts at the Center for Immigration Studies, a Washington, D.C.,
think tank analyzing Census Bureau data, see the makings of a
major demographic shift.

“The places that are attracting a lot of immigrants that are
nontraditional places generally have the characteristics of
Colorado: good labor market and a relatively low cost of living,”
said Steven Camarota, research director at the center. “And
Colorado has reached a critical mass in terms of networks of
immigrants. Immigrants are drawn in by the economy and by the
networks. Middle America now is experiencing a lot more immigration.”

Colorado ranked 13th among states on number of foreign-born
residents. California had the most, followed by New York, Florida
and Texas.

The new numbers come from a population survey conducted last
year by the Census Bureau – separate from the bureau’s
once-a-decade population count.

The figures were broken down state-by-state and analyzed this
month at the Center for Immigration Studies. The bureau plans to
release more data on the foreign-born population over the next two

It might seem as if Colorado’s fast-growing foreign-born
population is a factor in the state’s overall population growth
last decade by 31 percent to 4.3 million. More than 1 million new
residents gave Colorado the third-fastest-growing population
behind Nevada and Arizona.

Actually, foreign migration into Colorado – including births
to immigrants – accounts for about one-third of population growth
here, Camarota said. Nationally, foreign migration plus births
play a larger role, accounting for about two-thirds of U.S.
population growth.

For The Denver Post, the Center for Immigration Studies
conducted some additional analysis of foreign-born population
survey data obtained from the Census Bureau. Among the findings:

About 223,000, or 54 percent, of the foreign-born population
resides in the Denver area.

Poverty and education levels of newcomers vary widely.
African, European and South American-born Coloradans over 21
generally had completed at least high school, but 62 percent of
Mexican-born Coloradans had not completed high school. About a
third of African-born Coloradans lived below the official poverty
line, as did 24 percent of Mexican-born Coloradans. Three percent
of European-born Coloradans lived in poverty.

Of the 413,000 foreign-born Coloradans, 234,000, or 57
percent, moved here during the 1990s, often after settling in
other states.

Colorado stands out nationally with a higher-than-average
share of Mexican-born and African-born residents. About 43 percent
of foreign-born Coloradans came from Mexico – compared with 28
percent nationally. About 6.5 percent of foreign-born Coloradans
came from Africa – compared with 2 percent nationally. East
Asian-born Coloradans made up 12 percent of the foreign-born
population – compared with 18 percent nationwide.