Pew: Immigrants are fueling Philadelphia's population growth

About 27 percent of all Philadelphians either were born abroad or have at least one foreign-born parent.

Steve Tawa
June 08, 2018 - 2:38 pm
Friendship Gate in Chinatown, Philadelphia

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Research from Philadelphia-based Pew Charitable Trusts says immigrants are helping to drive the city's recent population growth, increasing its workforce, and boosting the number of entrepreneurs.

According to the study, "There are about 66,000 more people in the labor force who are immigrants — foreign born — as opposed to only about 28,000 more native-born people in the labor force." 

Study author Thomas Ginsberg said the "snapshot of what has been happening is striking."

Ginsberg said, "The growth of the immigrant population from 2000 to 2016 has been up by about 95,000, while the native-born population has decreased by about 44,500."

Looking mostly at Census data, Pew finds the number of foreign-born residents in Philadelphia represents nearly 15 percent of the city's population, the highest share since before World War ll. The national average is 13.5 percent. 

A few groups have dominated the inflow in recent years. Ginsberg said the survey shows nearly 40 percent of the city’s immigrant community has Asian origins.

"China was the country of origin for about 11 percent of the city’s immigrants," he said.

Another third came from the Americas, mainly Latin American and Caribbean countries. The fastest-growing group of foreign-born Philadelphians came from Africa. 

India, Vietnam, and the Dominican Republic each account for between 6 percent and 7 percent. Mexico, Ukraine, Haiti, and Jamaica each had around 3 percent or 4 percent.

Many of the new arrivals have settled in Northeast Philadelphia and the southern parts of South Philadelphia, although other neighborhoods also have experienced immigrant growth.

"People go to where they know people, Ginsberg said. "They end up in areas for either family or jobs in certain neighborhoods. That's a pattern that repeats itself in many places."
About 27 percent of all Philadelphians either were born abroad or have at least one foreign-born parent. 

The Pew report says some of the growth may be attributed to greater focus by city officials on policies of concern to immigrants, such as “sanctuary city” status.