(October 2008) Immigration is a polarizing topic in the United States, with people sharply divided about whether it is a positive or negative force for the country. Underlying these strong opinions are assumptions about the number and characteristics of foreigners living in the United States. What are the data behind these assumptions and how credible is the information?

On Oct. 16, 2008, the Migration Policy Institute and the Population Reference Bureau convened four experts to discuss how to find and use the most accurate and accessible data on immigration, primarily from government sources. They discussed the opportunities and pitfalls of existing data sources such as the statistics on annual immigration flows from the Department of Homeland Security, and data from the decennial census, the Current Population Surveys, and the American Community Survey. Below are links to the webcasts of the presentations.

Download the report Immigration: Data Matters (PDF: 2.18MB)


Finding and Using the Best Immigration Data Resources: A Seminar on Immigration Statistics

Moderator: Jeanne Batalova, policy analyst and data manager, Migration Policy Institute


Elizabeth Grieco, chief, Immigration Statistics, U.S. Census Bureau, described the breadth of data on the foreign-born population available from the Census Bureau.


Mark Mather, associate vice president, Domestic Programs, Population Reference Bureau, described how he uses data from the American Community Survey to study the well-being of the children of immigrants in U.S. states and territories.


Jeff Passel, senior demographer, Pew Hispanic Center, explained his methodology for estimating there were 11.9 million unauthorized immigrants in the United States in 2007, using not only the Current Population Survey and other U.S. data sources, but also Mexican surveys and sources.


Audrey Singer, senior fellow, The Brookings Institution, presented local area data on immigrant groups in major metropolitan areas, estimated using surveys and the census. Also included in this webcast is the question and answer session after the formal presentations.