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"Health Policy Challenges Posed by Shifting Demographics and Health Trends Among Immigrants to the United States"

A team led by Dr. Arturo Vargas Bustamante, UCLA Fielding School of Public Health professor of health policy and management and director of faculty research at the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative (LPPI), has found the United States faces a potential crisis in terms of health care for documented, and undocumented immigrants

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Multiple immigration waves have contributed to the economic transformation and population growth of the US. In 2018, 44.7 million immigrants lived in the US, making up 13.7 percent of the population. Approximately one-fifth of the world’s migrants live in the US; no other country hosts as many. The immigrant population, however, has fluctuated over time. Between 1860 and 1910 immigrants represented approximately 13–15 percent of the US population. Restrictive immigration laws in the 1920s, the Great Depression, and World War II reduced the flow of immigrants for five decades. By 1970 the immigrant population had reached a record low of 4.7 percent of the US population.

In 1960 approximately 9.7 million immigrants lived in the US; the US immigrant population increased fourfold in the subsequent six decades. The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 abolished national origin admission quotas, which quickly changed the countries of origin and the racial and ethnic composition of the immigrant population. The number of immigrants coming from Latin America and Asia increased rapidly. In 1960 only 6 percent of US immigrants were born in Mexico, whereas in 2018 approximately 25 percent were. By 2018 only 17.7 percent of immigrants self-identified as non-Latino White, down from 49.3 percent in 1980. Changes in the demography of immigrants are likely to continue in the upcoming decades. Immigration from Mexico slowed after the Great Recession, and more Asian immigrants than Latinos have immigrated to the US since 2009. If present trends continue, immigrants from Asia are projected to become the largest immigrant group by 2055.

The socioeconomic characteristics of immigrants are also changing. The inflow of low-skill immigrants to the US has been in decline since the Great Recession. At the same time, education levels among immigrants have been rising. For instance, in 1960, 2.5 percent of immigrants had a bachelor’s degree and 2.6 percent had a postgraduate degree. By 2018, 18.1 percent of immigrants had a bachelor’s degree and 13.9 percent had a postgraduate degree.