Commentary on “The number of undocumented immigrants in the United States

Estimates based on demographic modeling with data from 1990-2016”

Randy Capps, Julia Gelatt, Jennifer Lynne Van Hook, Michael Fix

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

“The number of undocumented immigrants in the United States: Estimates based on demographic modeling with data from 1990–2016” by Fazel-Zarandi, Feinstein and Kaplan presents strikingly higher estimates of the unauthorized immigrant population than established estimates using the residual method. Fazel-Zarandi et. al.’s estimates range from a low or “conservative” number of 16.7 million unauthorized immigrants, to an “average” of 22.1 million, and to a high of 27.5 million. The Pew Hispanic Center estimated the population at 11.3 million in 2016, and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) estimated it at 12.3 million. The new method shows much more rapid growth in unauthorized immigration during the 1990s and a substantially higher population in 2000 (13.3 million according to their “conservative” model) than Pew (8.6 million) and DHS (8.5 million). In this commentary, we explain that such an estimate for 2000 is implausible, as it suggests that the 2000 Census undercounted the unauthorized immigrant population by at least 42% in the 2000 Census, and it is misaligned with other demographic data. Fazel-Zarandi, Feinstein and Kaplan’s model produces estimates that have a 10 million-person range in 2016, far too wide to be useful for public policy purposes; their estimates are not benchmarked against any external data sources; and their model appears to be driven by assumptions about return migration of unauthorized immigrants during the 1990s. Using emigration rates from the binational Mexican Migration Project survey for the illegal border-crosser portion of the unauthorized population, we generate a 2000 unauthorized population estimate of 8.2 million—slightly below Pew and DHS’s estimates—without changing other assumptions in the model. We conclude that this new model’s estimates are highly sensitive to assumptions about emigration, and moreover, that the knowledge base about emigration in the unauthorized population during the 1990s is not well enough developed to support the model underlying their estimates.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0204199
JournalPloS one
Volume13
Issue number9
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 1 2018

Fingerprint

immigration
Emigration and Immigration
demographic statistics
Demography
Department of Homeland Security
Population
National security
Censuses
Knowledge Bases
Information Storage and Retrieval
public policy
Public Policy
Undocumented Immigrants
Hispanic Americans
Growth
methodology

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)

Cite this

@article{f9ae7ea6524943a3a3fea98058ccaf89,
title = "Commentary on “The number of undocumented immigrants in the United States: Estimates based on demographic modeling with data from 1990-2016”",
abstract = "“The number of undocumented immigrants in the United States: Estimates based on demographic modeling with data from 1990–2016” by Fazel-Zarandi, Feinstein and Kaplan presents strikingly higher estimates of the unauthorized immigrant population than established estimates using the residual method. Fazel-Zarandi et. al.’s estimates range from a low or “conservative” number of 16.7 million unauthorized immigrants, to an “average” of 22.1 million, and to a high of 27.5 million. The Pew Hispanic Center estimated the population at 11.3 million in 2016, and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) estimated it at 12.3 million. The new method shows much more rapid growth in unauthorized immigration during the 1990s and a substantially higher population in 2000 (13.3 million according to their “conservative” model) than Pew (8.6 million) and DHS (8.5 million). In this commentary, we explain that such an estimate for 2000 is implausible, as it suggests that the 2000 Census undercounted the unauthorized immigrant population by at least 42{\%} in the 2000 Census, and it is misaligned with other demographic data. Fazel-Zarandi, Feinstein and Kaplan’s model produces estimates that have a 10 million-person range in 2016, far too wide to be useful for public policy purposes; their estimates are not benchmarked against any external data sources; and their model appears to be driven by assumptions about return migration of unauthorized immigrants during the 1990s. Using emigration rates from the binational Mexican Migration Project survey for the illegal border-crosser portion of the unauthorized population, we generate a 2000 unauthorized population estimate of 8.2 million—slightly below Pew and DHS’s estimates—without changing other assumptions in the model. We conclude that this new model’s estimates are highly sensitive to assumptions about emigration, and moreover, that the knowledge base about emigration in the unauthorized population during the 1990s is not well enough developed to support the model underlying their estimates.",
author = "Randy Capps and Julia Gelatt and {Van Hook}, {Jennifer Lynne} and Michael Fix",
year = "2018",
month = "9",
day = "1",
doi = "10.1371/journal.pone.0204199",
language = "English (US)",
volume = "13",
journal = "PLoS One",
issn = "1932-6203",
publisher = "Public Library of Science",
number = "9",

}

Commentary on “The number of undocumented immigrants in the United States : Estimates based on demographic modeling with data from 1990-2016”. / Capps, Randy; Gelatt, Julia; Van Hook, Jennifer Lynne; Fix, Michael.

In: PloS one, Vol. 13, No. 9, e0204199, 01.09.2018.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

TY - JOUR

T1 - Commentary on “The number of undocumented immigrants in the United States

T2 - Estimates based on demographic modeling with data from 1990-2016”

AU - Capps, Randy

AU - Gelatt, Julia

AU - Van Hook, Jennifer Lynne

AU - Fix, Michael

PY - 2018/9/1

Y1 - 2018/9/1

N2 - “The number of undocumented immigrants in the United States: Estimates based on demographic modeling with data from 1990–2016” by Fazel-Zarandi, Feinstein and Kaplan presents strikingly higher estimates of the unauthorized immigrant population than established estimates using the residual method. Fazel-Zarandi et. al.’s estimates range from a low or “conservative” number of 16.7 million unauthorized immigrants, to an “average” of 22.1 million, and to a high of 27.5 million. The Pew Hispanic Center estimated the population at 11.3 million in 2016, and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) estimated it at 12.3 million. The new method shows much more rapid growth in unauthorized immigration during the 1990s and a substantially higher population in 2000 (13.3 million according to their “conservative” model) than Pew (8.6 million) and DHS (8.5 million). In this commentary, we explain that such an estimate for 2000 is implausible, as it suggests that the 2000 Census undercounted the unauthorized immigrant population by at least 42% in the 2000 Census, and it is misaligned with other demographic data. Fazel-Zarandi, Feinstein and Kaplan’s model produces estimates that have a 10 million-person range in 2016, far too wide to be useful for public policy purposes; their estimates are not benchmarked against any external data sources; and their model appears to be driven by assumptions about return migration of unauthorized immigrants during the 1990s. Using emigration rates from the binational Mexican Migration Project survey for the illegal border-crosser portion of the unauthorized population, we generate a 2000 unauthorized population estimate of 8.2 million—slightly below Pew and DHS’s estimates—without changing other assumptions in the model. We conclude that this new model’s estimates are highly sensitive to assumptions about emigration, and moreover, that the knowledge base about emigration in the unauthorized population during the 1990s is not well enough developed to support the model underlying their estimates.

AB - “The number of undocumented immigrants in the United States: Estimates based on demographic modeling with data from 1990–2016” by Fazel-Zarandi, Feinstein and Kaplan presents strikingly higher estimates of the unauthorized immigrant population than established estimates using the residual method. Fazel-Zarandi et. al.’s estimates range from a low or “conservative” number of 16.7 million unauthorized immigrants, to an “average” of 22.1 million, and to a high of 27.5 million. The Pew Hispanic Center estimated the population at 11.3 million in 2016, and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) estimated it at 12.3 million. The new method shows much more rapid growth in unauthorized immigration during the 1990s and a substantially higher population in 2000 (13.3 million according to their “conservative” model) than Pew (8.6 million) and DHS (8.5 million). In this commentary, we explain that such an estimate for 2000 is implausible, as it suggests that the 2000 Census undercounted the unauthorized immigrant population by at least 42% in the 2000 Census, and it is misaligned with other demographic data. Fazel-Zarandi, Feinstein and Kaplan’s model produces estimates that have a 10 million-person range in 2016, far too wide to be useful for public policy purposes; their estimates are not benchmarked against any external data sources; and their model appears to be driven by assumptions about return migration of unauthorized immigrants during the 1990s. Using emigration rates from the binational Mexican Migration Project survey for the illegal border-crosser portion of the unauthorized population, we generate a 2000 unauthorized population estimate of 8.2 million—slightly below Pew and DHS’s estimates—without changing other assumptions in the model. We conclude that this new model’s estimates are highly sensitive to assumptions about emigration, and moreover, that the knowledge base about emigration in the unauthorized population during the 1990s is not well enough developed to support the model underlying their estimates.

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=85054040675&partnerID=8YFLogxK

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/citedby.url?scp=85054040675&partnerID=8YFLogxK

U2 - 10.1371/journal.pone.0204199

DO - 10.1371/journal.pone.0204199

M3 - Article

VL - 13

JO - PLoS One

JF - PLoS One

SN - 1932-6203

IS - 9

M1 - e0204199

ER -