As of 1990, there were nearly 20 million foreign-born persons in the United States. Nearly half came in the previous 10 years, and nearly one in six came in the previous three years.

Net immigration has been around the one-million-a-year level over the past decade. Current projections assume around 900,000 per year, of which 200,000 are undocumented. As you can see, that may be a little low compared to recent experience. We are currently working on revisions to the projections that may well increase that level to be more consistent with the recent experience.

By far the largest source of foreign-born residents is from Mexico, with 4.3 of the 19.8 million persons. The next 10 largest source countries for the foreign-born are the Philippines, followed by Canada, Cuba, and Germany, and then the United Kingdom, Italy, Korea, Vietnam, China, and India.

About half of all Mexican-born U.S. residents entered before 1980. But you can also see somewhat of an upturn in the late 1980s. Immigrants become citizens as they spend longer time in the country; 62% of those who arrived before 1980 and were still here in 1990 have become citizens, while only 6% of those who arrived in 1987 or later had become citizens.

Year of entry is a particularly important immigrant characteristic. Those who are here longer tend to be better off economically. Those who arrived before 1980 actually have higher median household incomes in 1989 than the total U.S. population, nearly $36,000 versus $30,000. The more recent the immigrant, the lower the median household income tends to be.

Earlier immigrants are also likely to be older. The median age of the U.S. population is 33 years. Immigrants arriving before 1980 had a median age of 46.5 years, while the most recent immigrants, those arriving since 1987, had a median of about 25.1 years.

These differences translate into different probabilities of owning a home. Interestingly, although the immigrants arriving before 1980 have higher median incomes and higher ages, their homeownership rate was slightly lower than that of the U.S. population, 61% versus 64%, though substantially higher than other foreign-born persons.

We've done some additional work on who can afford to buy homes. Overall, 87% of current U.S. renters and 25% of current owners cannot afford to buy a modest home - one defined as at the 25th percentile of home prices.

Considering all the reasons why the 25% of owner families could not qualify to buy a modestly priced house, regardless of whether they occurred alone or in combination, 49% had excessive consumer debts, 26% lacked cash for the down payment and closing costs, and 59% had insufficient income.

To the 87% of renter families who could not afford to buy a modest home, corresponding percentages were 62% with excessive debts, 35% with insufficient cash, and 72% with insufficient income.

Also, 25% of people who already own a home could not buy the current modest-priced home. That is, they could not go out to the market again and buy a modest priced home.

Let me address the housing characteristics of immigrants that might affect their housing purchases.

Of particular note is the proportion of Mexican-born households consisting of only one person - 7%, versus 24.5% of the U.S. population as a whole. Of the 11 populations identified separately earlier, this was the lowest percentage. The highest percentage of one-person households was 35% for German-born persons.

One final point - not all housing is local. What you build in San Antonio should be different from what you build in Seattle. Further, immigrants are not just one group. Housing experts cannot take just one perspective when they look at their housing needs. So, I hope you'll find that the decennial census data can help you take a closer look.

Mr. Weinberg, who heads the housing statistics division of the Bureau of the Census, delivered this talk at a recent meeting of the Housing Roundtable in San Antonio.

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