Census breakdown: How immigrants are saving Philadelphia’s population

Philadelphia’s immigrant population grew last year at a rate twice as great as four years ago.

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Plenty of stories have been written today about the Washington D.C. metro area surpassing the Philadelphia metro area in population for the first time. But there’s another story in the Census’ latest data: The city is also a magnet for immigrants.

From 2014 to 2015, according to the Census, Philadelphia had an international net migration of 10,429 people. The net is about 2,000 more than the previous year, and twice as great as from 2010 to 2011.

The latest Census data doesn’t yet include information on where the immigrants are from, but older data illustrates they’re coming from all over. Philadelphia’s immigrant population is about 40 percent Asian, 30 percent Latin or Central American, 20 percent European and 10 percent African.

We can thank immigrants for some of Philadelphia’s most recent population boom (the city’s population again went up, from 1,561,000 in 2014 to 1,567,000 in 2015).

Other news from the Census data tells the same grim story of Philly. Since the 1950s, Philadelphians have been flocking to the suburbs and other big cities. Even as the population grew in recent years, Philadelphia has still almost always experienced an annual net loss when it comes domestic migration — people coming to or leaving Philadelphia from another American county.

And the year 2014-15 was no different: 10,638 more people left Philadelphia than moved here. It was the third straight year more the net domestic migration was greater than -10,000. These people are moving mainly to the suburbs but also to New York City, Los Angeles, Washington D.C. and Baltimore.

From 2010 to 2012, the annual net losses were between -5,000 and -7,000. So it’s not getting any better.

And without immigrants, Philadelphia could be doing a lot worse.

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