Recent Immigration Patterns
While we have devoted great attention to the expanding flow of trade and investment into this state, perhaps it's time to take a look at the flow of people as well.
Immigration is an aspect of globalization. It is a response to the changes and opportunities provided by a globalizing economy. While we have devoted great attention to the expanding flow of trade and investment into this state, perhaps it's time to take a look at the flow of people as well. Below we examine at the county level the recent pattern of immigration into Tennessee.
Tennessee was long one of the most isolated American states. In 1960, for example, 5.4% of Americans, but only 0.4% of Tennesseans, were foreign born. Only Mississippi and Arkansas had a smaller foreign-born percentage of their population. Even today, just over 3% of Tennesseans are foreign born, as opposed to over 13% of all Americans. From this perspective, Tennessee does not appear very globalized, and immigration does not seem particularly significant. However, we should recall that in absolute terms, more than eight times as many Tennesseans today are foreign born than was the case 50 years ago. Whereas in 1960, immigration to Tennessee stood at 7% of the national average, in 2000 it had grown to just over 22% of that average. Tennessee is slowly catching up.
It is perhaps not surprising that the overwhelming number of immigrants over the past decade and a half have located in a small number of counties. More than three of every four immigrants moved to just one of 10 counties in the state (shown in the chart).
These are, of course, the urban clusters around the state's major cities. Immigration has been strongly urban in character. The map below reinforces this.
County % of Total TN Immigration
1995-2010 [larger view]
For the past 15 years, immigration has been clearly concentrated around Nashville, Memphis, Chattanooga, and Knoxville. Most other areas of the state are recipients of very modest levels of immigration. This data, however, does not adjust for the size of the community. Counties of small size are unlikely to attract large numbers of immigrants, but that does not mean that immigration is not having a significant impact and is not a major local issue. We also need to look at the relative size of county immigration. The chart above makes that comparison. It shows every county in the state where at least one out of 25 persons is foreign-born, as of 2009. This data is also displayed in the map below.
% of Foreign-Born Population
2005-2009 [larger view]