The world celebrated International Women’s Day this month (March 8), and as the curtain falls on March, we honor the immigrant women in our country and the contributions they make to our communities.
More than 20 million female immigrants live in the United States today. They represent 51 percent of the overall foreign-born population. As of 2013, the most recent year for which data are available, immigrant women accounted for 21.2 million of the total 41.3 million immigrants living in the U.S.
Historically, most immigrants were men through the mid-20th century. However, the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965 (also known as the Hart-Celler Act) emphasized family reunification, which affected the number of women migrating to the U.S. By the 1970s, women were outpacing men. Immigrant women are more likely than men to come to the U.S. through the family-based immigration system.
As of 2013, 49 percent of all immigrant women were naturalized citizens, compared with 44 percent of immigrant men. Between 2003 and 2013, women accounted for a larger portion of naturalized citizens and legal permanent residents.
Immigrant Women Workers
What do these women do? Where did they come from? And why did they come to the U.S.? While family reunification is a driving force, women are increasingly coming to the U.S. not as dependent relatives but as workers. According to the 2013 American Community Survey, there were 13.1 million immigrant women workers in the U.S. They comprised 7 percent of all U.S. workers, spanning nearly all occupations and industries.
More than half (50.3 percent) of these workers come from Latin America. A little under a third (31 percent) come from Asian countries. These women hail from across the globe, but the top five countries of origin are Mexico, the Philippines, India, China and Vietnam. Nearly 60 percent of all immigrant women workers live in five states: California, New York, Texas, Florida and New Jersey. The top five occupations of these women are maids and house cleaners, nursing, psychiatric, and home health aides, cashiers, registered nurses, and janitors and building cleaners.