Sharp Decline in Income for Non-Citizen
Immigrant Households, 2006-2007

Associate Director for Research
Pew Hispanic Center

The current economic slowdown has taken a far greater toll on non-citizen immigrants than it has on the United States population as a whole. The median annual income of non-citizen immigrant households--a group that accounts for 7% of all U.S. households and 52% of all immigrant households--fell 7.3% from 2006 to 2007. In contrast, the median annual income of all U.S. households increased 1.3% during the same period.

The characteristics of immigrant heads of households who are not U.S. citizens help explain the vulnerability of this population to the latest economic slowdown. Most arrived in the U.S. in recent years with only a high school education or less. Many are employed in blue-collar production and construction occupations or lower-rung occupations in the service sector. The majority (56%) of non-citizen households are Hispanic. And nearly half (45%) of non-citizen immigrant households are headed by an undocumented immigrant.

The incomes of non-citizen households have displayed great instability in the past decade--increasing rapidly in economic expansions but falling just as suddenly during economic slowdowns. These fluctuations have been far greater than the average for all U.S. households. For example, the latest turn in the economic fortunes of non-citizen households represents a sharp turnaround from the preceding year. Incomes of non-citizen households in 2006 were 4.1% higher than income levels in 2005. Incomes of all U.S. households, meanwhile, had increased 0.7%.

From 2006 to 2007, incomes fell the most for non-citizen households headed by Hispanics; immigrants from Mexico, other Latin American countries and the Caribbean; the most recently arrived; males, either unmarried or with no spouse present; those without a high school education; and those in construction, production or service occupations. Those characteristics are also descriptive of most of the undocumented migrant population in the U.S.

This report outlines recent trends in the incomes of non-citizen immigrant households in the U.S. and identifies who among them experienced the largest losses from 2006 to 2007. Of a total 116.8 million households in the U.S., 15.7 million are headed by immigrants. The majority of these immigrant households--8.2 million--are headed by immigrants who are not U.S. citizens.

The report includes the analysis of estimates of household income from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Pew Hispanic Center's estimates of the income of non-citizen households by principal characteristics. The analysis is based on data from the Current Population Survey, a monthly survey of about 55,000 U.S. households conducted by the Census Bureau for the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The estimates in this report are from the surveys conducted in March which typically feature a larger sample of households.
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