It’s a cliche to call almost any coastal U.S. city “a city of immigrants.” But San Francisco remains a special case nonetheless thanks to the concentration of immigration activity that started pretty much as soon as the city dropped the name Yerba Buena way back when.
Nineteenth-century writers marveled (in often uncomfortable terms) at the crowds of Russian, Irish, Chinese, African, Indian, Japanese, Spanish, Mexican, Chilean, Peruvian, and Kiwi migrants mingling ` in one neighborhood.
Although immigrants as a percentage of the population declined slightly in the most recent American Cities Survey, the San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward area records a net increase in the population of foreign-born residents every year.
In fact, according to rental site Abodo, San Francisco (and the nearest East Bay cities in our census area) was seventh overall in the nation for the number of new immigrants between 2013 and 2015, welcoming over 164,000.
(We also pay our immigrant populace better than anywhere else in the country: The average San Francisco immigrant makes 88.5 percent of the area median income, according to the census. The next best performance on that rubric is Houston, coming in at 81 percent.)
Seventh place is actually astounding when you consider that we’re talking about overall number of immigrants, not a per-capita figure adjusted for starting population in any way.
San Francisco, Hayward, and Oakland had a combined population of about 1.44 million in 2015. That adds up to something like one new immigrant resident per 8.7 people over that two year period.
Compare that to the Chicago area’s ration of one to 17.5, the Houston area’s one to 9.6, or even a mere one to 29 for the greater Washington DC area.
New York City and the surrounding area welcomed a comparably few one new immigrant per roughly 40 residents, despite bringing in the largest volume of newcomers at nearly half a million over two years.
Some people worry that San Francisco is becoming more homogeneous in the 21st century, and census data does indeed lend some hard support to those concerns.
But at least we know that fresh faces continue to find us as attractive a destination as ever.