Census data reveals wide range in immigrant populations across local cities and towns

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — A Target 12 review of U.S. Census data shows the rate of foreign-born residents living in Southern New England has risen slightly over recent years, but each of the 59 cities and towns in Rhode Island and Bristol County, Massachusetts has its own distinct immigration story.  And so does the region as a whole.

How Southern New England compares to the rest of the U.S.

Overall, the percentage of foreign-born residents across Rhode Island and Bristol County, Massachusetts virtually mirrors that of the United States.  According to U.S. Census estimates, 13.4% of people living in the U.S. in 2017 were born in foreign countries. In Southern New England, 13.3% were foreign-born.

But the make-up of that 13-plus percent is vastly different, as illustrated by the graphs below:

While Latin American natives make up more than half of all foreign-born residents in the U.S., that number drops to just over one-third of the combined Southern New England population.  A similar trend is true for the Asian-born population: nationally, natives of Asia make up more than 30% of the foreign-born population, but in our region, only 17% of immigrants come from Asia.

By the Numbers: Immigration Breakdown by City & Town »

In contrast, Southern New England has significantly higher populations of both European natives and African natives, as compared to the U.S. as a whole – nearly three times greater than the national average for each group.  

A tale of two states

Even though Rhode Island and Bristol County, Massachusetts are often lumped together under the label “Southern New England,” the demographic breakdown of the two areas is actually quite different in terms of the immigrant population:

The most obvious difference lies with the largest foreign-born group in each area. In Rhode Island, Latin American natives make up 6.1% of the population, more than twice the percentage of Bristol County.  While in Bristol County, the largest slice of the foreign-born pie is comprised of European natives, who make up 7.1% of the county’s population, more than twice the percentage of Rhode Island. 

Some communities are bucking the trend

As the foreign-born population continues to climb steadily both locally and nationally, 16 Southern New England communities have actually seen a decline in foreign-born residents from 2009 to 2017:

Town/City 2009 Foreign-Born
Population
2017 Foreign-Born
Population
% Change
Berkley494255-48.38%
Charlestown242146-39.67%
Dighton476335-29.62%
West Warwick2,6891,931-28.19%
Westport1,6391,182-27.88%
Bristol3,1252,367-24.26%
Warren981754-23.14%
Seekonk1,049834-20.50%
Narragansett729627-13.99%
Dartmouth4,4554,096-8.97%
Central Falls8,0407,381-8.20%
Foster9184-7.69%
North Kingstown1,1551,072-7.19%
Scituate414393-5.07%
Fall River18,08917,494-3.29%
Middletown1,3921,389-0.22%

Others are far exceeding expectations

In the U.S., the foreign-born population grew by more than 15% from 2009 to 2017, nearly doubling Southern New England’s rate of 7.8% over that same span.  But the majority of local cities and towns have welcomed a much higher rate of immigrant neighbors. Nearly two dozen communities in Rhode Island and Bristol County, Mass. have experienced an increase greater than 25%, including the following 13 which have seen their foreign-born population rise by more than 50% since 2009:

Town/City 2009 Foreign-Born
Population
2017 Foreign-Born
Population
% Change
Jamestown150401+167.33%
New Shoreham2249+122.73%
Exeter123245+99.19%
Rehoboth535970+81.31%
West Greenwich256440+71.88%
Little Compton130220+69.23%
Hopkinton175288+64.57%
Easton1,1041,775+60.78%
Newport1,4872,365+59.05%
North Providence3,0664,717+53.85%
North Attleboro1,6152,471+53.00%
Norton6891,048+52.10%
Raynham6621,006+51.96%

Cities lead the list of the most culturally-diverse communities

Not surprisingly, cities make up eight of the 10 most culturally diverse communities in Southern New England, as measured by percentage of foreign-born population:

Rural & coastal towns among least diverse

On the flip side, the 10 local communities with the lowest percentage of foreign-born residents are all towns, and in most cases rural or coastal communities:

Click here to take a look at 2009-2017 Census data and trends for your hometown, and all 59 cities and towns in Rhode Island and Bristol County, Massachusetts.

Source of population data: U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates

12 ON 12: AN AMERICAN DEBATE

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