Variations in the Gender Composition of Immigrant Populations: How They Matter


  • We are grateful to the University of Minnesota Population Center, University of Minnesota Immigration History Research Center, and the Russell Sage Foundation, who provided generous funding for this project. We are also grateful to Monica Boyd, who provided helpful and important comments on the analysis, to Elizabeth Zanoni who assisted with the literature review, and to several anonymous reviews. Generous support for IPUMS data collection was provided by the National Institute for Child Health and Human Development and the National Science Foundation.


This paper estimates and interprets empirical shifts in the gender composition of immigrants to add to scholarship about the gendering of international migrations over time. We map shifts in gender ratios using micro-level data that permit us to create age-standardized estimates among adult foreign born stock living in the United States since 1850 and in 26 other nations worldwide since 1960. We examine regional and national variations in these shifts, and ask whether and how the gendered composition of foreigners from diverse origins in the United States – the nation that has received the largest populations of migrants for over a century – differs from other nations that receive large numbers of immigrants. We also examine recent variations in gender ratios among immigrants living in six regional destination countries. Results show substantial variation in the gender composition of foreign-born populations, and they offer a starting point for examining causes and consequences in future research.