Study: Chicago 'Immigration' Rate Dropping

07 July, 2015

Many large American cities need skilled workers from other countries if they are to grow. Chicago, Illinois is the third-largest city in the United States. But it may not stay that way for long. Why?

Its population is not growing at the same rate as other large cities. Experts say one reason for that is a drop in the number of legal immigrants moving to Chicago over the past 10 years.

Pete Tapaskar is the director of human resources at ProSoft, a technology company near Chicago. For the past year, he has had difficulty finding skilled workers for ProSoft. He seeks out workers from other countries and helps them get special permission from U.S. immigration officials to move to Illinois. About 80 percent of the company's workers are from South Asia. Many of them -- including Mr. Tapaskar himself -- came to Chicago on special work visas, known as "H1Bs." Such visas are given to foreigners with special skills that employers need and cannot find in American workers.

"There is a high demand for the H1Bs -- high-tech people. That is true."

Mr. Tapaskar says many people who get special work visas decide not to stay in Chicago, which can be windy and cold. He says many of them choose to work in areas with warmer weather.

He says they are slowly moving towards the South, especially Texas, and Atlanta, and Georgia.

He adds that there are other reasons immigrants choose to live in the southern United States instead of in Chicago.

"The environment there is ideal for starting a business. Could be the taxes will be lower. And employers are getting a lot of benefits from the state government."

Elizabeth Schuh is a policy analyst at the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning. She has studied the city's immigrants. She says there has been a large decrease in the number of people moving to Chicago from other countries.

"Prior to the recession, we were between 50- and 60-thousand most years. And now, since 2010, we've been at about 23 to 24 thousand international in-migration on a net basis."

Ms. Schuh says that is one of the reasons Chicago is growing at a slower rate than other large cities like Boston, Los Angeles, and New York.

"From 2005 to 2009, Chicago, the Chicago region was fourth in the country in terms of its rank for just the raw number of international immigrants it attracted. And in the same, the next five years, 2009 to 2014, the Chicago region was eighth. So just adding even all of those years, you are seeing a substantial drop."

I'm Jim Tedder.

VOA's Kane Farabaugh reported this story from Chicago. Christopher Jones-Cruise adapted it for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.


Words in This Story

trend – n. a general direction of change; a way of behaving or proceeding that is developing and becoming more common

ideal – adj. exactly right for a purpose, situation or person

benefit – n. help or assistance

analyst – n. a person who studies something

net – adj. after everything is completed or counted

region – n. an area or part of a country

rank – n. a position in a society, organization or group; a rating

raw – adj. not yet organized or changed in any way

attract – v. to cause someone or something to go or move toward something else

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