The number of people who live and work in the U.S. without legal status hasn't changed much since the end of the recession, when a shrinking job market prompted some to leave. But many of those who stayed are staying long-term, a new report suggests.
The latest estimate from Pew Research Center puts the nation’s unauthorized immigrant population at 11.3 million, roughly the same as in 2009. At its peak in 2007, it was 12.2 million.
The dynamics of this population are a far cry from what they were: What was once an ebb and flow of workers staying short-term has given way to people who have put down roots in the U.S.,and are raising families.
According to the report, the median amount of time that unauthorized immigrants have lived in the country is now almost 13 years; in 2003, it was less than eight years. More than 60 percent had lived here a decade or more.
“There are a lot of parents of U.S.-born children," said Pew demographer Jeffrey Passel, lead author of the report. " These are families – a lot of people are here as families. And it is much harder for a family to pick up and go than for a single guy.”
The report estimates that in 2012, 4 million adult unauthorized immigrants - 38 percent of the total population - lived with their U.S.-born children. About three-fourths of these parents had lived in the U.S. for 10 years or more.
These immigrants' putting down roots in the U.S. is partly a function of the immigration policies of the past two decades, which have largely put an end to the circular, seasonal migration of years past. As border enforcement has increased and entering the country illegally has become more difficult and expensive, unauthorized workers have opted to stay put.
The report does not break out data by state, but Passel said slightly over 20 percent of the unauthorized population lives in California. It’s a share that’s dropped by roughly half since 1990, as immigrant networks have expanded and more unauthorized immigrants have been drawn to opportunities in regions like the Midwest and South.
Still, according to Pew, California has the largest share of unauthorized immigrants of any state, followed by Texas. And according to a different report released Wednesday, these workers continue to be a big part of the state's economy.
Unauthorized immigrants represent about 2.6 percent of California's population and about 9 percent of its labor force, according to a joint report put out by the University of Southern California's Center for Immigrant Integration and the California Immigrant Policy Center, which advocates immigrant-friendly public policy.
In the greater Los Angeles area, where unauthorized immigrants are estimated to number 1.1 million, the numbers are higher, with these immigrants estimated to make up 11 percent of the workforce.
Unauthorized workers are more heavily concentrated in certain industries: For example, statewide, they make up 38 percent of the agriculture industry, and 14 percent of the construction industry (rising to 20 percent of the construction industry in the L.A. area).
Immigrants in general are estimated to contribute about $650 billion to the state's gross domestic product, or 31 percent of the state's total GDP, according to this report, compiled from American Community Survey and other data. Unauthorized immigrants in particular are estimated to contribute $130 billion to the state's GDP.
"What all this shows is three main points or interesting trends," said Jared Sanchez, a data analyst for USC's Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration. "First, that immigrants are a vital force to California and its regions, second that immigrants are an integrated part of California and its regions, and then of course, they play a future role in the state and its regions as well."
Immigrant families - and families of mixed citizenship status - are well represented in California's population. According to the data compiled by USC, 48 percent of the state's children have at least one immigrant parent. About 80 percent of non-citizen Latinos in the state, and about 61 percent of non-citizen Asians, share a household with a U.S. citizen.
View the full Pew Research report here, and the USC/CIPC report here.