of immigrants is unlikely to have any significant effect on how immigrant outcomes differ from those of natives.


New immigrants have always been disproportionately young adults, a pattern that continues to hold. Figure 2.10 compares the age distribution among 1992-94 immigrants to that of the U.S. population. The differences are especially marked at the extreme ends of the scale. Taking the native-born population as the standard, people aged 15 to 34 are substantially overrepresented among new immigrants, whereas those in the older age groups are significantly underrepresented. Children and those aged 35 to 44 account for about the same proportion among immigrants as among those already in the United States.

Young adults comprised an even larger fraction of immigrants in the earlier waves of U.S. immigration (see Figure 2. 1). Since then, the age distribution has shifted gradually toward both children and older immigrants. This shift has mirrored changes in immigration policy, especially as family unification moves to center stage. In addition, longer life-spans and easier travel made migration more attractive to older people.

The concentration of immigrants among young working adults has fundamental implications for U.S. society. Immigrants are more likely to be workers, and they will make fewer demands on social programs geared to the elderly. As an illustration, current immigrants are more likely than the native-born to be paying into the Social Security system and less likely to be receiving benefits. Their presence in the United States may be beneficial to the current balance of that program, an issue we address in depth in Chapters 6 and 7.

Figure 2.10

Age distribution of 1992-1994 immigrant admissions and 1990 U.S. population.

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