USC study: 1 in 10 L.A. County residents in U.S. illegally

Marchers at a May Day rally this month show support for comprehensive immigration reform.
Marchers at a May Day rally this month show support for comprehensive immigration reform.
(Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)

One in 10 Los Angeles County residents is an immigrant living in the country illegally, according to a study released Tuesday by the USC Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration.

Many of those immigrants have been in the country for more than a decade and are the parents of children who are American citizens, the study found. One in five children in Los Angeles County has at least one parent who is in the country without proper documentation.

One in four of the estimated 11 million people said to be in the United States without legal authorization lives in California. Statewide, the study estimates that about 7% of residents, or more than 2.6 million people, are in the country illegally.


That means the stakes for California are particularly high as Congress debates immigration reform, including the possibility of a mass legalization.

“The share of children with at least one undocumented parent really speaks to the interwoven generations,” said Manuel Pastor, the USC center’s director and a coauthor of the study. “Another thing that’s striking to me is the length of settlement of the undocumented population. Rather than the person who stands in front of Home Depot who just got here a year ago, it’s actually a more settled population.”

In Los Angeles County, 63% of unauthorized immigrants are from Mexico and 22% from Central America, according to the study. Eight percent are from the Philippines, Korea or China.

In the Bay Area, the percentage of Asians in the unauthorized population is much higher, at 23%.

Immigrants residing in Los Angeles County illegally make a median wage of $18,000 a year, compared with $47,000 for U.S.-born residents. Only 33% have health insurance, the researchers found.

Nearly half of the county’s unauthorized immigrants lack a high school diploma, and 60% do not speak English well, according to the study. Twelve percent own their own homes.


The study’s authors expect the earnings of unauthorized immigrants to increase if they are granted legal status. By a conservative estimate, newly legalized immigrants in Los Angeles County could collectively earn an additional $1.5 billion annually, according to the study. Statewide, the income gain could be $4.6 billion annually.


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