A Look at Philadelphia’s Foreign-Born Residents

August 27, 2018

Philadelphia immigration lawyers bring 25 years of experience to complex immigration cases.The Pew Charitable Trusts recently conducted an extensive study into the make-up and scale of Philadelphia’s immigrant populations, how they impact the work force and economic growth of the city, and how they compare to communities across the country.

Researchers found significant growth in the numbers of foreign-born residents, when compared with cities of the same size and the rest of the nation. They uncovered interesting data about where immigrants are coming from and how they function in the context of city life. Researchers discovered that immigrants generally feel good about city services and opportunities, and most native-born Philadelphians feel positive about immigration.

Here is a closer look at Philadelphia’s immigrant communities:

Countries of origin

In Philadelphia, no one nationality constitutes a majority population; the city is incredibly diverse. Over recent years, however, immigrants from certain countries have formed larger communities than others. According to the Census Bureau American Community Survey, 11 percent of the city’s immigrants, around 22,000 residents, come from China.

With slightly smaller communities, immigrants from the Dominican Republic, India, and Vietnam each represent around six to seven percent of Philadelphia’s immigrants. Immigrants from Haiti, Jamaica, Ukraine, and Mexico each make up around three or four percent of the city’s residents.

Growing families

When compared with native residents of the city, immigrants in Philadelphia were more likely to marry, have children, live with extended family, and become homeowners. In 2016 there were more than 75,000 children born to immigrant parents. Three-quarters of them were born in this country, making them United States citizens.

Language and Education

Immigrants in Philadelphia seem to follow two very different educational paths. Nearly one-third of adults born-abroad and living in the United States have bachelor’s degrees or higher. Around the same number of immigrants do not achieve their high school diplomas. More immigrants, around 38 percent, in comparison cities like New York, Baltimore, Boston, and Washington D.C. go on to higher education and achieve degrees. Immigrants born in Europe and Africa were most likely to earn degrees.


Immigrant workers have played an integral part in the city’s economy for more than two decades. Today, most foreign-born Philadelphians work in education, health, retail, hospitality, and social services. Almost one-fifth of the city’s civilian labor force is comprised of workers 16 and older who were born abroad. They represent the largest segment of worker growth in the city and surrounding suburbs.

More than ten percent of working immigrants living in Philadelphia say they are either “self-employed” or working for their own incorporated businesses. This “mom and pop” business trend has contributed to the revitalization of neighborhoods throughout the city.

Around half of Philadelphia’s foreign-born residents are naturalized. For the remaining immigrants, the process can be logistically daunting. Yet, Pew Charitable Trusts research links naturalization with better educations and higher incomes.

Philadelphia Immigration Lawyers at The Law Offices of MC Law Group, LLC Bring 25 Years of Experience to Complex Immigration Cases

Founded by a Philippine immigrant, the Law Offices of MC Law Group, LLC offers invaluable legal counsel in all immigration matters including citizenship, naturalization, and all visas. To schedule an initial consultation with a Philadelphia immigration lawyer, call 215-496-0690 or complete the simple online contact form to get started. Located in Philadelphia, our team of skilled lawyers serve clients throughout the state of Pennsylvania.