Immigration to Tennessee
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Tennessee was the 16th state to join the Union in 1796. Tennessee is one of the top 5 states for producing tobacco, hay, fresh market tomatoes and snap beans. Forty-four percent of Tennessee’s 26.4 million acres are farmland. Tennessee’s economy is primarily based on agriculture and industry. The main agricultural commodities produced include: soybeans, cotton, tobacco, livestock and livestock products, dairy products, cattle and hogs. The main industrial sectors include: chemicals, transportation equipment, rubber and plastics.
Immigration to Tennessee
As of 2006, it is estimated (FAIR) that the immigrant population of Tennessee is 210,635 which equates to approximately 3.5% of the state’s population. The overwhelming majority of immigrants are from Mexico (28.1%). Germany, India, Canada, China (including Hong Kong and Taiwan), Korea, Vietnam, U.K., Philippines and Laos account for another 32.8% of the immigrants to Tennessee.
There has been an increase in the foreign-born population both through new immigrant residents in the state as well as through the children born to immigrants. It is estimated the immigrant population and immigrant births are adding nearly 210,635 persons to Tennessee every year equating to 24.6% of the state’s overall population increase.
The 2000 Census reports 159,004 immigrant residents in Tennessee. This is an increase of 169% over the 1990 foreign-born population recorded at 59,114 immigrants. This increase is significantly higher than the 14.8% increase in the native-born population for the state of Tennessee. Tennessee has the 6th highest rate of increase in immigrant growth in the US. An indication of the change in the immigrant population in Tennessee may be seen from the 2000 Census where the share of non-English speakers at home increased to 4.8% up from 2.9% recorded in 1990.
Tennessee’s naturalization rate of 33.43% is significantly lower than the national average of 40.1% based upon data recorded during the 2000 Census. This is one of the lowest naturalization rates in the US. The data collected in the 2000 Census shows a significant drop in the 45%% naturalization rate recorded 1990, indicating an influx of new immigrants, including illegal immigrants. The educational level of Tennessee residents is overall below the US average according to data collected in the 2000 Census.
Educational Summary for Tennessee
- High school graduate: 75.9% (US Average 80.4%)
- Some college or more: 44.3% (US Average 51.8%)
- Bachelor’s degree or more: 19.6% (US Average 24.4%)
- Advanced degree: 6.8% (US Average 8.9%)
Illegal Immigration to Tennessee
As of 2007, FAIR estimates the state’s illegal alien population at about 90,000 persons which equates to less to approximately 1.6 percent of the overall population. The annual fiscal cost to Tennessee taxpayers for emergency medical care, education and incarceration projected by FAIR is currently $202 million and is estimated to rise to $351 million per year in 2010 and $624 million per year in 2020.
Beginning in 2001 a controversial Tennessee law permitted illegal immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses (or state ID) without presenting a social security card or proof of residency. This law was changed in 2007, once again requiring proof of residency prior to obtaining any state identification or licenses.
Tennessee Immigration Statistics
- Tennessee’s immigrant population increased by nearly 32.5% between 2000 and 2006.
- In 2005, housing authorities reported over 42,000 of Tennessee households were defined as crowded or severely crowded. Studies by the Urban Institute in 2001 indicate a rise in crowded housing often correlates with in increase in the number of immigrant residents.
- According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2007 Tennessee’s unemployment rate is 5.3%, just above the national average of 5.0%.