America’s Melting Pot Cities

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5. New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA
> Pct. born abroad: 29.3%
> Pct. of foreign-born gained citizenship: 55.3%
> Origin of largest immigrant group: Dominican Republic (10.6% of foreign-born pop.)
> Population increase due to international immigration, 2010-17: +5.5%

New York has long been considered the iconic city of the American melting pot. It has been the primary port of entry to the United States throughout the country’s major waves of immigration. The city also has supported individual cultures to flourish in ethnic enclaves such as Little Italy, Chinatown, and Koreatown in Manhattan; Little Odessa and Little Poland in Brooklyn; and Little India and Little Guyana in Queens.

New York’s foreign-born population — which constitutes 29.3% of the metro area’s population — is composed of all 130 national origins the Census tracks. Some 4.4% of the city’s population was born in Europe, and 8.6% in Asia — respectively the third and 10th largest such shares nationwide. There is a 49.6% chance that two New York City residents picked at random would be from different countries, nearly twice the national figure.

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4. San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA
> Pct. born abroad: 30.9%
> Pct. of foreign-born gained citizenship: 55.1%
> Origin of largest immigrant group: China (19.8% of foreign-born pop.)
> Population increase due to international immigration, 2010-17: +4.9%

In most of the melting pot metro areas on this list the largest region of origin of the foreign-born population is Central and South America and the Caribbean. San Francisco is one of two exceptions, and in both cases, the largest share of foreign born residents comes from the Asia. About one in four San Franciscans identify as Asian, and 17.3% of area residents were born in the region.

San Francisco has a long and rich history of serving as a foothold in the United States for Chinese immigrants. The city’s chinatown is arguably the most world-renowned. Of the city’s foreign-born residents, just under 20% are from China.

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3. Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA
> Pct. born abroad: 33.6%
> Pct. of foreign-born gained citizenship: 51.9%
> Origin of largest immigrant group: Mexico (38.3% of foreign-born pop.)
> Population increase due to international immigration, 2010-17: +3.2%

Multiple waves of immigration have contributed to the high level of diversity in the Los Angeles metro area today. Thousands of Chinese workers came to California in the mid-19th century to work on the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad, many of them settling into what became Chinatown in Los Angeles.

The city’s cultural, ethnic, and racial diversity further increased with the steady arrival throughout the 20th century of immigrants from Mexico and of African Americans from other parts of the United States. Today, 15.2% of the metro area population identifies as Asian, 0.3% as Native Hawaiian or other Pacific islander, and 45.0% as Hispanic or Latino — each among the largest shares of any city. Some of the most ethnically rich neighborhoods include Boyle Heights, Koreatown, and Leimert Park Village.

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2. Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, FL
> Pct. born abroad: 40.5%
> Pct. of foreign-born gained citizenship: 57.3%
> Origin of largest immigrant group: Cuba (32.3% of foreign-born pop.)
> Population increase due to international immigration, 2010-17: +9.2%

For centuries, Miami has served as a port of entry for Caribbean migrants into the United States. It also has been a point of entry for Puerto Ricans seeking to move to the mainland. In the city’s Little Havana, exiles from Cuba have found a home away from home, and immigrants from other Spanish-speaking nations have made a home there as well.

Over 40% of Miami’s population was born in a different country, the only U.S. metropolitan area where this is the case. Nearly one-quarter of Miami’s population are foreign-born residents who have become citizens in their lifetimes, also the highest share of any metro area.

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1. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA
> Pct. born abroad: 38.5%
> Pct. of foreign-born gained citizenship: 52.3%
> Origin of largest immigrant group: Mexico (20.7% of foreign-born pop.)
> Population increase due to international immigration, 2010-17: +7.2%

San Jose ranks as the most diverse city in the country. From the late 1800s to the mid-20th century, San Jose’s agriculture industry attracted large numbers of Mexican farmworkers to the area. In recent decades, international immigration has been largely driven by the city’s growing tech industry. The San Jose metro area is home to more than 800 high tech companies and 75% of all Fortune 500 companies. The city’s population grew by 7.2% due to international migration from 2010 to 2017, the third most of any city. Nearly two in five San Jose residents were born outside of the United States, the second most of any metro area. Some 25.4% of residents were born in Asia, the largest share nationwide.