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Born Abroad

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The Census Bureau this week released a batch of data on foreign-born residents of the U.S., a cohort whose numbers reached an all-time high of 38.1 million as of last year -- 12.6 percent of the total U.S. population.

The states in which the highest proportion of residents were born in another country: California (27.4 percent), New York (21.8 percent), New Jersey (19.9 percent), Nevada (19.4 percent) and Florida (18.9 percent). Among the 20 biggest metro areas in the country, Miami had the highest proportion of foreign-born residents (37 percent), with Los Angeles close behind (34.9 percent). St. Louis isn't a big draw for immigrants, evidently, as just 4 percent of its population was foreign-born.

The high proportion of foreign-born residents is reflected in Census data on what language people speak in their homes. "About 19.7 percent of the population age 5 and over spoke a language other than English at home in 2007," according to the report. That's up from 13.8 percent in 1990.

In the Los Angeles metro, 53.6 percent of residents over age 5 spoke a language other than English at home. Moreover, "About one in five California residents over age 5 spoke English less than 'very well.' " (Of course, some East Coast snobs would suggest that scarcely anyone in California speaks English very well, but that's another story.) By comparison, this was true for fewer than 1 percent of the residents of Montana and West Virginia.