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Demographics of the US

The United States, home to people with origins in all corners of the globe, is the third most populous country in the world. Only India and China have larger populations. In this overview, we briefly touch upon noteworthy facts about the demographic makeup of the United States.
The census collects information on a large number of topics, including race.

Population Overview

At the time of writing, the United States had a population of more than 317 million. Population density varies immensely between the 50 states that make up the nation: the most densely populated regions are the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, as well as the metropolitan areas in the southern US and in the vicinity of the Great Lakes. The great majority of the population lives in cities and suburbs, with an urbanization rate of 82%. California, the most populous state, is home to some 37 million people, while Wyoming has a population of less than 600,000.

In contrast to some other major expat magnets around the globe, particularly those in Europe and Asia, the US does not currently have the problem of an aging population. The median age in 2013 was 37.2 years – this compares to 45.7 years in Germany and 44.5 years in Hong Kong.

The US does not experience problems with a shrinking population, either. Quite on the contrary: the American population growth rate is high for an industrialized country – although this is mostly not due to a higher fertility rate, but rather to the huge popularity the US enjoys among immigrants and expatriates.

Race in the US

The US Census Bureau does not only determine the size and distribution of the population, but collects data on the racial makeup of the population as well. Race, as defined by the Census Bureau, reflects an individual’s self-identification with any of the racial categories outlined in the census form. These categories are based on social definitions and are not an attempt at biological or genetic definitions. The five broad categories in the 2010 census were:

  • White (77.9%): people with origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa
  • Black or African American (13.1%): people with origins in the Black racial groups of Africa
  • American Indian or Alaska Native (1.2%): people with origins in the original peoples of the Americas who maintain their tribal affiliation or community attachment
  • Asian (5.1%): people with origins in the original peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia, or the Indian subcontinent
  • Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander (0.2%): people with origins in the original peoples of Hawaii, Guam, Samoa, or other Pacific Islands

Individuals can report any combination of races. 2.4% of the population indicated two or more races in the 2010 census. Please note that the large Hispanic or Latino population of the United States does not have its own racial categories, as they can be of any racial or ethnic group. The total percentage of people with Hispanic or Latino roots was 16.9%.

Although the US has a long history of being a very multicultural nation, race issues do unfortunately still exist. We have prepared an overview concerning the topics of racism and xenophobia in a separate article.

Additional Demographic Figures

Apart from age, sex, and race, the Census Bureau collects data on a wide variety of topics including health insurance coverage, computer use, marriage status, language and religious affiliation, to name but a few. Many of these are also of key interest to expatriates and are discussed in their own articles of this expat guide:

The Expat Population

As no government agency in the US keeps track of the number of expatriates currently in the country, exact figures on the total expat population are rather hard to come by. However, there are two ways of getting a reasonable approximation of the popularity of the US amongst expats and immigrants from all over the world.

One can consider the number of people without US citizenship in the country (some 21 million in 2011). However, this number obviously includes people that would not be considered expatriates in the most common sense of the term. Alternatively, you can have a look at the numbers of people coming to the US by virtue of temporary worker visas and employment/investment immigrant visas.

Temporary workers and their families made up 5.7% of nonimmigrant admissions to the US in 2012, amounting to a total of some 3 million people. Another 144,000 people were granted employment-based preference (i.e. permanent residency). Diplomatic staff accounted for some 365,000 entries.

Obviously, the above figures cannot account for the number of expatriates already in the country at any given time.  However, it is safe to say that no matter where your expat assignment might take you, you will be able to find established expat circles in your vicinity. Our article on major expatriate destinations in the US takes a closer look at the most popular cities amongst expats.


We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete.