What Are the Biggest Immigrant Groups in Your State?

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May 19 2014 4:15 PM

Ethiopians in Colorado, Cubans in Kentucky

What are the biggest immigrant groups in your state?

Last month, I wrote about the fun and the pitfalls of viral maps, a feature that included 88 super-simple maps of my own creation. As a follow-up, I’ve written up a bunch of short items on some of those maps, walking through how I created them and how they succumb (and hopefully overcome) the shortfalls of viral cartography. I’m going to conclude this series by taking a closer look at this map, which shows the most common country of origin for people who were granted legal immigrant status in 2012.


Data source: Department of Homeland Security. Map by Ben Blatt/Slate.

The data used to create the map are from the Department of Homeland Security. In 2012, slightly more than 1 million people were granted legal permanent resident status in the U.S. (Legal permanent residents may also be referred to as “permanent resident aliens” or “green card holders.”) About 15 percent of these new immigrants are from Mexico. China and India come in second and third with roughly 8 and 6 percent of 2012’s new legal permanent residents.

What happens when we remove Mexico from the sample?


Data source: Department of Homeland Security. Map by Ben Blatt/Slate.


Now we see a lot more variance, with India, the Philippines, and Myanmar (also known as Burma) taking up much of the map. It’s important to note that the number of immigrants in each state can vary widely. In 2012, California had the most new legal permanent residents, with more than 196,000. Wyoming had just 427.

In terms of the number of immigrants relative to population, West Virginia had the smallest influx. Here’s an example of how viral maps can be misleading: While Filipinos represented the plurality of the immigrants in West Virginia, every state that West Virginia borders (Virginia, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Maryland) had more Filipino immigrants relative to their populations than West Virginia did. That’s not reflected in the map, though, because people from India and (in the case of Kentucky) Cuba outnumbered Filipinos in those states.

See more of Slate’s maps.



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