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Illegal immigration slows in California

April 15, 2009|Teresa Watanabe

After years of rapid growth, illegal immigration has slowed in California, with the state's share of the nation's 11.9-million undocumented migrants dropping by nearly half to 22% from 42% since 1990, according to a new study released Tuesday by the Pew Hispanic Center.

The study found that California is still home to the nation's largest concentration of illegal immigrants, numbering 2.7 million last year, but that more of them have dispersed to Georgia, North Carolina and other states.

The study, based on March 2008 data from the U.S. Census Bureau, found that three-quarters of illegal immigrants are Latino, mostly from Mexico. On average, they tend to work in low-skilled jobs such as farming and construction, earn markedly less than the median national income and have lower educational levels than U.S.-born residents.

For instance, 47% of illegal immigrant adults ages 25 to 64 have less than a high school education compared with 8% for U.S.-born residents. Their 2007 median household income was $36,000, compared with $50,000 for the U.S.-born, and they do not attain markedly higher incomes the longer they live in the United States, unlike legal immigrants, the study found.

Nearly three-quarters of the children of illegal immigrants are U.S. citizens by birth. In California, they consist of about 10% of students in kindergarten through 12th grade. The number of such mixed-status families has rapidly grown, to 4 million in 2008 from 2.7 million in 2003, the study found.

-- Teresa Watanabe

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