Immigrants make up an increasing share of the state’s population. In 2012, 27.1% of Californians were foreign born, more than double the percentage in the nation as a whole (13%).
Of the 10.3 million people who are foreign born in California, 47.6% are naturalized citizens, 28.6% are legal non-citizens, and 23.8% are unauthorized immigrants. California has a higher share of unauthorized immigrants in its total population—almost 6.4%—than any other state.
Between 1940 and 2012, the number of foreign-born California residents increased more than tenfold, from a little less than 1 million to 10.3 million. For decades, California was the most popular immigrant destination. In 1990, California was home to one-third of the immigrant population nationwide. Since then, the state’s popularity has waned: today, one-quarter of the nation’s immigrants live in California.
The vast majority of California’s immigrants were born in Latin America (52.9%) and Asia (36.9%). California has sizeable populations of immigrants from dozens of countries; the top three countries of origin are Mexico (4.3 million), the Philippines (834,000), and China (775,000). California has a lower share of immigrants from the Caribbean, Europe, and South America than the nation as a whole.
Over the past decade, immigrants from Asia have begun to arrive in California at a faster rate than immigrants from Latin America. More than half (56.2%) of immigrants who arrived in 2010 or later were born in Asia and only 27.2% came from Latin America (18.1% from Mexico). Asians have also recently overtaken Latinos as the largest group of new immigrants in the United States as a whole.