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Economy & competitive position

INTERACTIVE MAP – One state, many nations: In a new century, Michigan looks to its immigrants

Once upon a time, immigrants swelled Michigan’s population, arriving with dreams of working in factories and mines, in farms and companies. And they left their mark on every corner of it. Immigrants are the reason the signature food of the Upper Peninsula, the Cornish pasty, can be purchased around the corner from the pizzerias founded by the descendants of Italian miners, both groups living among Finns and Germans.

Downstate, agricultural workers from Mexico and Central America settled throughout west Michigan, while the Detroit area was a virtual United Nations of newcomers from the Middle East, Europe, East and Southern Asia.

Today, the state is no longer the booming center of an industrial economy, but it still draws immigrants as it did before. Some come via choice, others are swept by the flood tides of revolutions and forcible uprooting. They come from different countries, in search of the same fortunes. A few data points, and their sources:

  • In 2011, 28 percent of all U.S. small businesses were created by immigrants.
  • In 2007, 22,000 businesses in Michigan were owned by Asian Americans.
  • In the Chaldean community, 61 percent of households own at least one business, and many own two or more.

Source: Karen Phillippi, deputy director of the Michigan Office for New Americans

Source: U.S. Census, American Community Survey, 2012 estimates

Mike Wilkinson, Bridge's computer-assisted reporting specialist, compiled data for this report.

Staff Writer Nancy Nall Derringer has been a writer, editor and teacher in Metro Detroit since 2005.

6 comments from Bridge readers.Add mine!

  1. S Oatman

    What is the time frame for these statistics?

    1. Nancy Derringer

      These are based on 2012 American Community Survey figures. — N.D.

  2. Gene Markel

    The counties of Wayne, Oakland, Mc Comb and Washtenaw appear to be dominated by foreign born inhabitants. Is this correct?

    1. Carrie Rheingans

      A better way to think of this is that of all places with immigrants, the southeast Michigan counties have the highest absolute numbers of immigrants, but they overall represent a small proportion of their overall populations. The counties are still “dominated” by the native-born populations. For example, the top three foreign-born populations in Washtenaw County only add up to less than 15,000 total people – of about 380,000 total people. That is hardly “domination”.

  3. Neil

    Is it true what President Obama said, that the future of America is with the illegal immigrant children? What does that say of American children or legal Asian immigrant children? Of no consequence? Is it that only the immigrant has the smarts to start a business? Are the American children being raised ignorant or have no interest, and are just as capable, in starting a business?

  4. Dan

    Thanks for a nice presentation of this data. One suggestion to make it even more useful: display information on the percentage of a county’s population these people represent in addition the the absolute number of immigrants by origin either as a separate rollover map or, ideally, in the popup for each county). Numbers are important but percentages say something important, but different, about county demographics

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