clock menu more-arrow no yes

This map shows why immigrants are the best hope for Middle America

More Americans are leaving Middle America than moving there (with the exception of North Dakota). That could send the middle of the country into demographic decline, as the population ages and no one new moves in. Luckily, in many parts of the Great Plains, immigrants are coming in to save the day:

immigrants midwest Pew Charitable Trusts

(Pew Charitable Trusts)

This map, from a Pew Charitable Trusts report on immigrant populations, looked at the native-born and foreign-born populations of each county in the US in 1990 — and then again, in 2008-2012. The coloring is based on two things: whether the native-born population increased or declined over those twenty or so years, and whether the immigrant population increased or dropped over the same time.

Check out the dark green parts of the map: there's a concentration of them around the Oklahoma and Texas panhandles. Those are counties where the population grew from 1990 to 2012, even though there were fewer native-born Americans — the growth of the immigrant population was so great that it offset the decline of the native population.

Many immigrants in the US still live in more "traditional" states for newcomers, like New York or California (though, as the report shows, there are more immigrants pretty much everywhere in America than there were in 1990). And the southern Great Plains aren't suddenly diverse enough that anyone would mistake them for LA. But when it comes to slowing down — or avoiding — demographic decline, the region has immigrants to thank.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for The Weeds

Get our essential policy newsletter delivered Fridays.