2017 American Community Survey: First Look

The U.S. Census Bureau recently released preliminary estimates from the 2017 American Community Survey. We’ve been digging through the data to identify and analyze demographic changes likely to impact your markets, and uncovered a few interesting nuggets. Key takeaways include:

• The US population grew by 2.6 million people in 2017
• Asians and Hispanics accounted for almost 80% of 2017’s population growth, but less than 25% of the total population
• The Asian Indian sub-population grew by 7.4% this year
• Asians replaced Latin Americans as the largest portion of foreign born residents entering the U.S. since 2010
• 63% of all Asians residing in the US—almost 12 million—are foreign born


Asians and Hispanics Drove 2017 Population Growth
The U.S. population grew by almost 2.6 million people in 2017, bringing the annual growth rate back in line with the decade-long trend of greater than 2% annual growth. As the table below shows, most of the 2017 growth is due to the Asian and Hispanic populations. When combined, these two groups account for 81% of total population growth, despite the fact they constitute less than one quarter of the total U.S population in 2017.

A closer look reveals that the 2017 growth rate for both of these populations exceeded the previous 5-year average. As the graph below illustrates, the growth rate for Asians was more than 1.4 percentage points higher in 2017 (3.8%), while the growth rate for Hispanics was 0.9 percentage points higher (2.5%). Let’s look at what’s driving growth in these population.

Central and South Americans Driving Hispanic Growth 
The Central American and South American sub-populations are the major drivers of growth in the Hispanic population this year. The rate of growth for both of these sub-populations exploded in 2017, while growth in the Mexican Hispanic sub-population continued its steady decline.

The Central American sub-population grew by 240,000 people—mostly Guatemalans and Salvadorans. The South American sub-population grew by 260,000 people—more than 50% of this growth is due to the Colombian and Venezuelan sub-population. Despite its comparatively low growth rate, the Mexican Hispanic population added 412,000 people in 2017. And the Dominican Republic sub-population grew by almost 160,000 people.

Indian, Filipino, and Chinese Drove Asian Growth
Though the Asian population is comprised of 22 sub-populations, Indians, Filipinos, and Chinese drove most of the growth in 2017. This isn’t terribly surprising given the size of these sub-populations—together they account for 60% of the Asian population—about 11.2 million people. The most stunning finding is that the Indian subgroup grew at 7.4% in 2017. In the past five years, this group has grown by more than 25%—roughly 900,000 thousand people.

Asians Outpacing Hispanics on Immigration
2017’s explosive Asian growth rate is related to two other findings. First, foreign-born residents arriving in the U.S after 2009 are now more likely to be from an Asian country than a Latin American country. This finding, first reported by the New York Times, is based on an analysis conducted by William H. Frey of the Brookings Institute. Frey’s analysis found that 41% of all immigrants arriving in the U.S. between 2010 and 2017 were Asian, while only 39% came from Latin America. Despite this shift towards more Asian immigrants, about half of all foreign-born residents are Hispanic.

Second, the Asian portion of the foreign born population grew by 2 percent—from 26.6% to 27.1%—between 2016 and 2017. Presently, 63% of the entire Asian population in the US—about 12 million people—is foreign born. The Hispanic population, in comparison, only has 19.8 million foreign-born residents, roughly 33.5% of the Hispanic population.


The U.S. Census Bureau will continue releasing data from the 2017 survey over the next few weeks, and we’ll be doing deeper dives to understand how the U.S. population is changing. We’ll make sure to update you as we learn more!

Read more about America’s changing demographics:

The Big Shift 2017

2016 ACS at a Glance 

2015 ACS at a Glance