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The Foreign-Born by Urban-Rural Status of Counties: 2011-2015

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According to the latest Census Bureau data from the American Community Survey, the foreign-born population, or anyone who is not a U.S. citizen at birth (including those who become U.S. citizens through naturalization), comprised 13.2 percent of the overall U.S. population between 2011-2015.

While much of the country’s foreign-born population resides in urban counties, American Community Survey data highlight that a number of counties across the country, in urban as well as rural settings, are home to immigrants.

A comparison of counties that are mostly urban (populations that are 50.0 percent or more urban), mostly rural (50.0 to 99.9 percent rural), and completely rural shows that mostly urban counties were more likely to have higher percentages of foreign-born than those that were mostly or completely rural.

Data from the American Community Survey (2011-2015) on the distribution of the foreign-born population by rural or urban status for U.S. counties show that:

  • Among mostly urban counties, many with higher-than-average concentrations of foreign-born people were located in parts of the Northeast, in Florida, Illinois and Washington, and along counties that border Mexico, especially in California and Texas. In mostly urban counties, the median value of foreign-born residents was 5.3 percent. Miami-Dade County, Fla., had 51.6 percent foreign-born, one of the highest rates among mostly urban counties.
  • Among mostly rural counties, those with higher-than-average foreign-born percentages were in Texas, southern Idaho and North Carolina. The median percentage of the foreign-born in mostly rural counties was 1.9 percent. Gaines County, Texas, had 24.2 percent foreign-born, one of the highest rates among mostly rural counties.
  • Among completely rural counties, those with higher-than-average percentages of foreign-born were in Texas and western Kansas. The median value for completely rural counties was 1.4 percent foreign-born. Aleutians East Borough, Alaska, had 45.1 percent foreign-born, one of the highest rates among completely rural counties.

For more information about how the U.S. Census Bureau defines urban and rural geographies, see this brief on Defining Rural at the United States Census Bureau.

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