Report

Unauthorized Migrants: Numbers and Characteristics

  • June 15, 2005
  • By Jeffrey S. Passel

"Unauthorized Migrants: Numbers and Characteristics," a report by the Pew Hispanic Center counters the stereotype of undocumented migrants as single males with very little education who perform manual labor in agriculture or construction. The study shows that most of the unauthorized population lives in families, a quarter has at least some college education and that illegal workers can be found in many sectors of the U.S. economy.

Building on previous work that estimated the size and geographic dispersal of the undocumented population, the new report offers a portrait of that population in unprecedented detail by examining family composition, educational attainment, income and employment.

The study was prepared by Jeffrey S. Passel, a veteran demographer and senior research associate at the Center, using a well-established methodology to analyze data from the March 2004 Current Population Survey, which was conducted by the Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The report estimates the number of persons living in families in which the head of the household or the spouse is an unauthorized migrant--13.9 million as of March 2004, including 4.7 million children. Of those individuals, some 3.2 million are US citizens by birth but are living in "mixed status" families in which some members are unauthorized, usually a parent, while others, usually children, are Americans by birthright.