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Foreign Born and Immigrants Overall

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Foreign Born and Immigrants Overall

Key Facts Foreign Born Population Overall

The Washington, D.C. metropolitan area is one of the most diverse in the country when taking into consideration the minority and foreign born (immigrant) population make-up.  Northern Virginia contains a sizable amount of the metropolitan area's diverse population.  The foreign born or immigrant population is transforming the region.  Note, the terms foreign born and immigrant are used interchangeably throughout the NOVA Region Dashboard.

It is immigration that has been driving many of the major demographic trends in the region, including:

  • School enrollment changes

  • Sizable increases in the number of Hispanics and Asians

  • Population growth

  • Employment growth

About the Data and Proper Data Interpretation

Foreign born population data is sourced from the U.S. Census Bureau 2000 Census and the American Community Survey (ACS).  ​It is important to note that any data sourced from the ACS is based on a small sample of the population of a place. Areas with smaller populations, such as the cities of Northern Virginia, may have a larger margin of error in the data due to the survey sample size being small.  This is less of an issue the larger the population.  The margin of error is shown in the popup that is displayed when hovering over a bar in the bar charts.  If there is a large increase or decrease in the estimate from one time period to the next, and the margin of error is large and overlaps other periods, then the large change between time periods is likely due to statistical sampling error and is not considered statistically significant. In addition to the margin of error, the accuracy of the American Community Survey data for an area can be gaged by evaluating the trend.  If the data has a clear trend then the data from one period to the next can be deemed reliable.

Foreign Born Population - Current

Foreign Born Population Share - Current
Five-Year Estimates

All jurisdictions in the United States are included in the five-year American Community Survey estimates. The share of the population that is foreign born, for all jurisdictions in Northern Virginia, is displayed in this graph. Northern Virginia's foreign born population share is 27.7%. All Northern Virginia jurisdiction's have a foreign born population share that is greater than the Commonwealth of Virginia and the United States. Out of all 3,144 jurisdictions in the USA, all Northern Virginia jurisdictions are ranked #174 or higher. The region's highest ranked are Manassas Park City (7th), Fairfax County (26th), and Fairfax City (31st), each of which have a greater foreign born population share than New York County, New York (Manhattan) (28.5% and 32nd). Back in 2000, all jurisdictions in Northern Virginia had a foreign born population share that was less than Manhattan. These high ranks of the region's jurisdictions are indicative of a transforming region and the diverse population of Northern Virginia and the DC metropolitan area.

Foreign Born Population Share - Current
One-Year Estimates

Those jurisdictions with a population of 65,000 or more are included in the one-year American Community Survey estimates. The share of the population that is foreign born, for all jurisdictions in Northern Virginia, is displayed in this graph. All Northern Virginia jurisdiction's have a foreign born population share that is greater than the Commonwealth of Virginia and the United States. Out of the 837 jurisdictions with a population of 65,000 or more in the USA, all are ranked #67 or higher, with the region's highest ranked, large jurisdiction being Fairfax County, ranked 18th with a foreign born population of 30.7%. Fairfax County has a greater foreign born population share than New York County, New York (Manhattan) (28.6% and 24th) and Orange County, California (30.2% at 19th).  Northern Virginia's foreign born population share is 27.6%, which is only 1.0% less than Manhattan.  Back in 2000, all jurisdictions in Northern Virginia had a foreign born population share that was less than Manhattan.  These high and changing ranks for the region's jurisdictions are indicative of the very diverse population and a transforming region of Northern Virginia and the DC metropolitan area.

Foreign Born Population - Historic Compared to Current

Foreign Born Population Share - Historic Compared to Current
Five-Year Estimates

Immigration has been driving many of the major demographic trends in the region. The foreign born population is transforming the region.  Northern Virginia's population was 21.4% foreign born in 2000 and has risen to 27.7% currently. Similar to today, back in 2000 all Northern Virginia jurisdictions had a foreign born population share that was greater than the Commonwealth of Virginia and the United States. The greatest transformations have occurred in the four outer-core jurisdictions of Loudoun, Manassas City, Manassas Park, and Prince William. The outer-core of the region accounts for a majority of the region's overall population growth, as indicated in the population growth charts.

Foreign Born Population Share - Historic Compared to Current
One-Year Estimates

The foreign born population trend, for the regions large jurisdictions (population of 65,000 or more), is shown in the following graphs. The legal status of non-citizens is unknown and not collected by the U.S. Census Bureau in any of its data sets. 

Key Facts:

  • Northern Virginia, as defined for this analysis using the region's five largest jurisdictions, experienced an increase from 2011 to 2017. The foreign born population share increased from 25.5% to 28.6% respectively.  From 2017 to 2021 it trended down, reaching a low of 27.2% in 2021.  The decline from 2017 to 2021 was a result of the 2016 to 2020 presidential administration's reforms to immigration policy, as well as the coronavirus pandemic which led to a drop in the region's population between 2020 and 2021 caused by out-migration of residents, higher death rates than normal times, and slowing immigration.  In 2022 the pandemic was subsiding and immigration rebounded in the country, which led to higher population growth for immigrants in Northern Virginia compared to the previous year.  This higher growth increased Northern Virginia's foreign born population share.

  • Between 2017 and 2022 the region's naturalized citizen population increased.  The decrease in the overall foreign-born population can largely be attributed to the non-citizen populations migrating out of the area in greater amounts than naturalized citizens moving into the area. 

  • Loudoun and Prince William Counties have had significant increases and trended upward in their foreign born population as a share of the total population since 2010.  Note, from 2021 to 2022 Prince William appears to have declined, but this may be a statistical anomaly due to the small sample size of the American Community Survey, the increase regionally and nationally, and the fact that the county's 2022 figure is not a statistically significant difference from 2021 based on the margin of error. When the 2023 data is released, the county trend together with the national and regional trend can confirm whether or not this was an anomaly.

  • Fairfax County's foreign born population share trended up from 2010 to 2017 to a high of 32.1%.  From 2017 to 2021 it trended down, reaching a low of 29.9% in 2021.  The increase from 2021 to 2022 coincides with the regional and national rebound in immigration.

 

  • Alexandria and Arlington's foreign born populations have dropped since 2017 or 2018 and have not begun to rebound since the peak of the pandemic, unlike the region overall.

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