For nearly one-third of Washingtonians, immigration is not just a political issue — it’s also personal.

That’s because in 2021, nearly 2.3 million Washington residents — 30% of the state’s population — were immigrants themselves, or had at least one parent who is an immigrant, according to new data from the Current Population Survey, a joint effort between the U.S. Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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Immigration is one of the most prominent issues dividing the U.S. This data shows personal connection to immigration — whether by being an immigrant yourself or being the child of an immigrant — varies tremendously from state to state.

Washington is one of 12 states where at least 30% of the population was either an immigrant or had at least one parent who is.

The share of Washington’s population that falls into that category has increased significantly over the past couple decades. The 2000 data showed just 18% of the state’s population was an immigrant or a child of an immigrant.

In 2021, California was the only state where the majority of residents fell into this category — about 51% of the population, or more than 19 million people. New Jersey and New York followed, both higher than 40%.


There is a wide gap between these states and those at the other end of the spectrum. In 11 states, less than 10% of the population was foreign-born or had at least one parent who is. Mississippi had the lowest share of such residents, at around 5%, followed by West Virginia and Alabama.

Nationally, 27% of Americans, or nearly 25 million people, were foreign-born or had at least one parent who is. Only fourteen states, including Washington and the District of Columbia, are higher than the U.S. percentage — these include the four most populous states, which are California, Texas, Florida and New York.

A breakdown of Washington’s population shows roughly 5.3 million residents, or 70% of the population, were born in the U.S. to two parents who were also born in the country.

Another 1.2 million state residents, 16% of the population, immigrated to the U.S. from another country. The largest number of foreign-born Washingtonians were born in Mexico — more than a quarter million people. Next is India, the birthplace of around 120,000 state residents, followed by China at around 100,000 people.

Nearly 1.1 million Washingtonians, 14% of the population, were born in the U.S. to at least one foreign-born parent. For most of these folks — more than 600,000 — both parents were born abroad. The remainder have a single foreign-born parent, and the number with an immigrant mother, around 230,000, was a little higher than the number with an immigrant father, around 200,000.

The data also includes large metropolitan areas like Seattle where 1.6 million people, 39% of the population, were foreign-born or had at least one foreign-born parent. Seattle’s metro area includes King, Pierce and Snohomish counties.