Data Show Trends Among Unauthorized Immigrants In Phoenix, Metro Areas

Published: Thursday, May 4, 2017 - 5:00am
Updated: Thursday, May 4, 2017 - 8:01am

Most of the nation’s 11 million unauthorized immigrants are concentrated among 20 major metro areas, including Phoenix.

Jeff Passel is a senior demographer with the Pew Research Center. He said Phoenix is home to over half of Arizona’s undocumented population, which defies the population trend seen elsewhere.

“Within the Phoenix metropolitan area, the majority of unauthorized immigrants live in the city of Phoenix. In most of the other large metropolitan areas, the major city does not have a majority of the unauthorized immigrants,” Passel said.

Passel said jobs are the main driver for population concentrations. And job opportunities vary depending on the city — that most unauthorized immigrants work in construction jobs and service jobs, not agriculture as is often a stereotype.

“A lot of people when they think of unauthorized immigrants, the first thing they think of is agricultural workers,” he said.

But, Passel said, most agricultural workers don’t live in metropolitan areas, and make up only 4 percent of the total workforce.

“Most unauthorized immigrants work in construction jobs and service jobs,” he said.  

He said the numbers in Phoenix grew in the mid-'90s and 2000s from construction employment but have since leveled back out.

“So the stereotype of the unauthorized immigrant as an unattached male agricultural worker is not at all what this population is. It is basically young, working families,” he said.  "The majority of unauthorized immigrants live with families. And I mean nuclear families.  The majority of unauthorized immigrants are in couples. And a very large share have children.”

Nationwide, Passel said the undocumented population is the same as it was in 2009.

Passel’s data show about 40 person of unauthorized immigrants have U.S.-born children. Nationwide, the largest numbers of undocumented workers are in New York and Los Angeles and parts of Texas that are not border cities.

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