China becomes top source of immigrants to United States

Updated: 2015-05-04 10:47

By ZHENG XIN in New York(China Daily USA)

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China has become the largest source of immigrants to the United States, according to the most recent US Census Bureau data.

"Whether these recent trends signal a new and distinct wave of immigration is yet to be seen," Census Bureau researchers said.

China sent 147,000 immigrants to the US in 2013, followed by India with 129,000 and Mexico with 125,000, according to a Census Bureau study by researcher Eric Jensen and others released during the Population Association of America annual meeting in San Diego on May 1.

The racial and ethnic backgrounds of the 1.2 million US immigrants in 2013, according to the Census Bureau's American Community Survey (ACS), will be reflected in the overall racial and ethnic make-up of the US, the ACS said.

Researchers said the report provides a racial and ethnic picture of the US population, as well as the demographic, social and economic characteristics of the recent immigrants from the top sending countries.

According to William Frey, research professor with the Population Studies Center, under the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan, the implications are starting to come into view. In time, the US population will have no racial majority, and instead, a melting pot of minorities will shape US society and politics, he said in his recent book Diversity Explosion.

While Hispanics are still the largest racial or ethnic minority group, some 65 percent of them are native-born, while 65 percent of the US Asian population is foreign born.

Historically, the national origins of immigrant flows have shifted, with the earliest waves of immigrants coming from Northern and Western Europe, followed by Southern and Eastern Europe, and then Latin America and Asia.

The shift in America's immigrant community followed a decade of increasing immigration from China and India, while immigration from Mexico was declining, according to Jensen.

Wang Ting, an immigrant from China, said the US is the top draw for most Chinese immigrants she knew, most of whom are affluent and educated.

"Choosing the US as the destination is to find a better education for my children," said Wang.

"The education system in China is too intensely competitive, with the Chinese schools oriented towards one make-or-break college admission exam offered upon high school graduation. It's too much and not that healthy for the kids."

Madeleine Sumption, a senior policy analyst and assistant director for research in the international program at the Migration Policy Institute in Washington, told China Daily previously that having an education outside China was viewed as an insurance policy, and more and more parents are able to afford that option.

The smog that consistently shrouds the capital is another factor that makes more Chinese want to immigrate to where the air is better, Wang said.

In addition to China and India, several of the other top sending countries in 2013 were from Asia, including South Korea, the Philippines and Japan, according to Jensen.