Media contact: Brian Mahl, 202-419-4372,

As Mexican share declined, U.S. unauthorized immigrant population fell in 2015 below recession level

WASHINGTON, D.C. (April 25, 2017) – The number of unauthorized immigrants living in the United States in 2015 fell below the total at the end of the Great Recession for the first time, with Mexicans continuing to represent a declining share of this population, according to new Pew Research Center estimates based on government data.

There were 11 million unauthorized immigrants living in the U.S. in 2015, a small but statistically significant decline from the estimate of 11.3 million for 2009, the last year of the Great Recession. And according to a preliminary 2016 estimate, the unauthorized immigrant population is 11.3 million, which statistically does not show a change from the 2009 or 2015 estimates and is inconclusive as to whether the total unauthorized immigrant population increased, held steady or continued to decrease. (Note: the preliminary 2016 estimate uses a different data source with a smaller sample size and larger margin of error.)

Mexicans have long been the largest origin group among unauthorized immigrants – and the majority for at least a decade – but their numbers have been shrinking since peaking at 6.9 million, or 57% of the total, in 2007. In 2014, they numbered 5.8 million (52% of the total). In 2015, according to the Center’s new estimate, they declined to 5.6 million, or 51% of the total. According to the preliminary 2016 estimate, while the number of unauthorized immigrants from Mexico remained the same at 5.6 million, their share fell to 50% of the total unauthorized immigrant population, which would mark the first time since at least 2005 that Mexicans did not account for a majority of the unauthorized immigrant population.

As the number of Mexicans has decreased, the number of unauthorized immigrants from other parts of the world has increased, particularly from Asia and Central America. The estimated number from countries other than Mexico declined from 5.3 million in 2007 to 5 million in 2009, but grew after that, reaching 5.4 million in 2015. The preliminary 2016 estimate (5.7 million), while higher than the 2009 estimate, is not statistically different from the 2015 estimate.

Pew Research Center estimates are derived from data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS) and Current Population Survey (CPS). The CPS is used when ACS data are not available. The 2016 estimate is considered preliminary because it is derived from the CPS, which has a larger margin of error due to its smaller sample size compared with the ACS. All other Center estimates since 2005 are derived from the ACS.

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For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact Brian Mahl at or202-419-4372.

Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan fact tank that informs the public about the issues, attitudes and trends shaping America and the world. It does not take policy positions. The Center is a subsidiary of The Pew Charitable Trusts, its primary funder. Subscribe to our daily and weekly email newsletters or follow us on our Fact Tank blog.