In 1920, about 1 in 5 Minnesotans was foreign-born. In 2017, about 1 in 12 were (8.2%, or about 448,397 residents). Fifty-one percent of Minnesota's foreign-born population are naturalized U.S. citizens.
In 2017, the largest groups of foreign-born Minnesotans were born in Mexico (about 66,605); Somalia (27,373); India (28,403); Laos, including Hmong (25,436); Vietnam (18,330); China, excluding Hong Kong and Taiwan (19,900); Ethiopia (17,536); and Thailand, including Hmong (17,260). These estimates do not include U.S.-born children of these immigrants. They also likely underestimate the size of our immigrant populations because trust and language issues reduce response rates to Census surveys.
11.1% of Minnesotans (age 5+) spoke a language other than English at home. Behind English, the most common languages spoken are Spanish (about 194,121 speakers) and Hmong (58,833 speakers). 75,095 Minnesotans speak African languages, not de-aggregated in the data.
The most common ancestries (reflecting family or generational ties, regardless of one's birthplace) reported by Minnesotans in 2017 were German (1,823,185 people), Norwegian (816,954 people), Irish (565,980 people), Swedish (434,411 people), English (292,067 people), and Polish (250,781 people). About 52,333 Minnesotans reported Somali ancestry in 2017. Many Minnesotans do not report ancestry or simply report "American."
(Source: 2017 American Community Survey)
Data for US, MN, and all available MN counties from the U.S. Census Bureau's 2013-2017 American Community Survey:
What type of immigration data is available from the U.S. Census Bureau?
The U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey (ACS) produces estimates of foreign-born individuals and some of their characteristics, such as country of birth, year of entry, citizenship status, educational attainment, etc. Because these data result from a survey, the data estimates have margins of error. Alternately, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Office of Immigration Statistics publishes statistics and reports based on administrative data, such as the number of persons obtaining legal permanent resident status, refugees and asylees, naturalizations, nonimmigrant admissions, and enforcement actions.
Who is considered part of the "foreign-born population in Census Bureau data?"
The foreign-born population includes anyone who is not a U.S. citizen at birth, including immigrants who later become U.S. citizens through naturalization. The native-born (U.S.-born) population includes anyone who is a U.S. citizen at birth. Children of U.S. citizens who are born abroad because of military service, travel, etc. are still considered native- or U.S.-born.
What does "ancestry" mean in the Census?
Ancestry is a broad, somewhat vague term that refers to a person's self-reported ethnic origin or descent, roots, heritage, or the place of birth of the person or the person's parents or ancestors. Some ethnic identities, such as German or Jamaican, can be traced to geographic areas outside the United States, while other ethnicities such as Pennsylvania Dutch or Cajun evolved in the United States.
The data on ancestry result from this question on the American Community Survey (ACS):
What is this person's ancestry or ethnic origin?
(For example: Italian, Jamaican, African Am., Cambodian, Cape Verdean, Norwegian, Dominican, French Canadian, Haitian, Korean, Lebanese, Polish, Nigerian, Mexican, Taiwanese, Ukrainian, and so on.)
In the ACS, respondents may give as many ancestries as they wish. The first response given is considered "first ancestry," and the second is considered one's "second ancestry." "Total ancestry" data tallies everyone who gave a particular ancestry response, regardless of order listed; these data will give the broadest definition of a particular ancestry group, e.g. "Somali" (sometimes listed as "Somalian" in census tables).
The intent of the ancestry question is not to measure the degree of attachment the respondent has to a particular ethnicity. For example, a response of Irish might reflect total involvement in an Irish community or only a memory of ancestors several generations removed from the individual. A person's ancestry is not necessarily the same as his or her place of birth; i.e., not all people of German ancestry were born in Germany (in fact, most were not).
However, ancestry is often useful in capturing a larger community of people than just those born in another country. If there is a group in the U.S. consisting of generations of people who immigrated here, and subsequent generations of people born in the U.S., you can better capture both types of people with ancestry.
One issue with using ancestry data is that some respondents do not answer the question. Also, because that question is open-ended, some people answer with a broad group or continent. For example, it's likely that some people of Somali or Liberian ancestry answer with "African" which would exclude them from estimates of Somalian or Liberian ancestry. Additionally, some people report their ancestry as simply "American."
What data on language are available from the Census Bureau?
Language use, English-speaking ability, and "linguistic isolation" data are currently collected in the American Community Survey. The Census Bureau defines a linguistically isolated household as one in which no one 14 years old and over speaks only English, or speaks a non-English language and speaks English very well. In other words, all members of the household 14 years old and over have at least some difficulty with English.
In the past, various questions on language use were asked in the censuses from 1890 to 1970. The three questions below were asked in the 1980, 1990, and 2000 decennial census long form and are now asked in the ongoing American Community Survey (which has replaced the decennial long form as the source of characteristic data).
a. Does this person speak a language other than English at home?
b. What is this language? (For example: Korean, Italian, Spanish, Vietnamese) _____
c. How well does this person speak English?
Very well/Well/Not well/Not at all