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Zack Hutchins
Director of Communications

November 6, 2007

Report finds Upstate's foreign-born population boosts human capital and population numbers

Upstate's foreign-born workers have contributed to the area's human capital and helped to boost stagnant population growth in some areas, a new report by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York has found.

While foreign immigration to New York City is tracked and analyzed by many sources, a “substantial number” of immigrants travel Upstate to settle, the report said. “This influx of immigrants Upstate has gone relatively unnoticed—masked, no doubt, by the negligible growth in the region's overall population.” By 2000, the report said, foreign-born immigrants made up 5 percent of Upstate's population.

The report, which used data from the 2000 Census, profiles characteristics of Upstate's foreign-born population and compares those characteristics to foreign-born New York City residents.

Upstate's foreign-born population differs from downstate's in many ways, including country of origin, the report said. More than 50 percent of New York City's immigrant population came from Latin America, versus 13 percent of Upstate's immigrants, the report found.

“Our study reveals that the Upstate immigrants have come from a very different set of countries than their downstate counterparts and represent a more varied mix of backgrounds and skills,” the report said. “While the foreign-born population Upstate includes a significant number of adults who lack a high school degree, the percentage who have a college or post-graduate degree is substantially higher than the percentage of either native-born residents or immigrants in New York City who have higher degrees.”

The analysis showed that foreign-born Upstaters were concentrated in certain sectors, including scientific, medical and computer-related fields. The study also found that Upstate's population has been helped a bit by the influx of foreign-born residents.

“In fact, an increase in the foreign-born accounted for what little net population growth took place between 1990 and 2000 in the four Upstate metro areas we study: Albany, Buffalo, Rochester, and Syracuse/Utica-Rome,” the report said. “Overall, the native-born population in the four areas declined by about 10,000, or 0.3 percent, while the foreign-born population increased by about 20,000, or 10.0 percent.”

The growth of foreign-born workers is tied to growth in overall population in most of the Upstate areas studied by the report. In Rochester and Albany, overall population, including the population of foreign-born immigrants, increased between 1990 and 2000. During the same time period, both populations decreased in the Buffalo area.

“Syracuse/Utica-Rome is the only one of the four areas where the foreign-born population expanded while the total population shrank,” the report said. That increase can be attributed to the extensive and successful refugee program in the Utica-Rome area, the report added.

However, the report warned, the growth of foreign-born workers in Upstate New York has not been significant enough to “assuage concern about the weak expansion in the overall Upstate population.”

“Notably, both the foreign- and native-born populations in individual Upstate areas have experienced changes in the same direction between 1990 and 2000, suggesting that immigrants and the native-born have responded similarly to educational and employment opportunities as well as to local amenities,” the report added.

“The rising share of highly educated foreign-born workers and their relative concentration in highly skilled occupations imply that these immigrants are contributing disproportionately more to the region's growth in human capital than to its growth in population,” the report concluded.

The complete report is available at www.ny.frb.org/research/current_issues/ci13-9.html.