Report: South American Population in U.S. Has Increased 32-Fold Since 1960

Colombian immigrant Luis Morales stands outside the Bay Parkway Community Job Center on September 28, 2013 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. The center, part of the Workers Justice Project, provides shelter and wage negotiation services for immigrant day laborers who normally wait for work on street corners …
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The population of South American immigrants living in the U.S. has grown more than 32 times over the level it was at in the 1960s, according to a Migration Policy Institute analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data.

The MPI analysis found that since 1960 the South American population in the U.S. has experienced the fastest growth of any Latin American immigrant group. In 1960 there were 90,000 South American immigrants in the U.S. By 2014 there were 2.9 million.

In 1960, South Americans represented a mere one percent of the foreign-born population, by 2014 they made up seven percent.

“Immigration from South America grew most rapidly from 1960 to 1980, with the number of South Americans residing in the United States more than doubling each decade (increasing by 285 percent in the 1960s and 220 percent in the 1970s),” the MPI report reads. “Since then, the population has continued to rise, but at a slower pace.”

The top five South American countries with the most migrants in the U.S., as of 2014, made up more than 77 percent of the South American population in the U.S. Those top sending countries were Colombia with 707,000 immigrants or 25 percent of South American immigrants, Peru with 449,000 immigrants (or 16 percent of all South American immigrants), Ecuador with 424,000 (or 15 percent), Brazil with 336,000 immigrants (12 percent), and Guyana with 273,000 immigrants (10 percent).

While South American migrants are located across the globe, the United States has the highest concentration compared to any other country with 25 percent of the worldwide total of South American immigrants. Spain has the second highest percentage of South Americans with 16 percent.

Notably, most South Americans came to the U.S. via family chain migration.

“On average, most South American immigrants obtained lawful permanent residence in the United States (also known as receiving a green card) through family ties,” the report reads. “By and large, South American immigrants mirrored the sociodemographic characteristics of the overall immigrant population with a few exceptions: they were slightly more educated, were more likely to participate in the labor force, and had higher household incomes.”