Immigrants in Rural Areas — a Growing Group — Face Unique Challenges

Posted October 17, 2016
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Blog immigrantsinruralamerica 2016

Immi­grants and refugees now make up 31% of new res­i­dents in rur­al com­mu­ni­ties, accord­ing to the U.S. Cen­sus Bureau’s Amer­i­can Com­mu­ni­ty Sur­vey. This chang­ing face of rur­al Amer­i­ca is com­pelling com­mu­ni­ty lead­ers to learn more about who these immi­grants are — and what chal­lenges they face — in order to ensure that they can thrive.

One new resource avail­able for ref­er­ence is a paper by the Uni­ver­si­ty of New Hampshire’s Carsey School of Pub­lic Pol­i­cy. Enti­tled Demo­graph­ic and Eco­nom­ic Char­ac­ter­is­tics of Immi­grant and Native-Born Pop­u­la­tions in Rur­al and Urban Places, this paper uses Amer­i­can Com­mu­ni­ty Sur­vey data to iden­ti­fy defin­ing char­ac­ter­is­tics of rur­al immi­grants. It finds that these immi­grants are unlike their rur­al native-born and urban immi­grant coun­ter­parts in a host of ways, includ­ing their edu­ca­tion his­to­ry, age and fam­i­ly structure.

Key dif­fer­ences, as report­ed in the paper, are out­lined below.

  • Com­pared to native-born rur­al res­i­dents: Rur­al immi­grants are more like­ly to be of work­ing age (18 to 64). They are also more racial­ly and eth­ni­cal­ly diverse, less edu­cat­ed and are more like­ly to have children.
  • Com­pared to native-born rur­al work­ers: Work­ing rur­al immi­grants are near­ly twice as like­ly to be poor.
  • Com­pared to rur­al immi­grants who are not cit­i­zens: Rur­al immi­grants who are cit­i­zens are far less like­ly to be poor and almost twice as like­ly to have a col­lege degree. They are also more like­ly to speak some English.
  • Com­pared to their urban coun­ter­parts: Rur­al immi­grants are poor­er and have low­er edu­ca­tion­al attainment.

This find­ings sparked a Oct. 6 pan­el dis­cus­sion host­ed by the Aspen Insti­tute Com­mu­ni­ty Strate­gies Group. In this dis­cus­sion, experts exam­ined how the Carsey School’s paper might impact the work of orga­ni­za­tions com­mit­ted to sup­port­ing low-income res­i­dents in rur­al America.

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