Sunday, June 10th, 2012

Where the BRICs Are

You here a lot these days about the so-called BRIC countries – Brazil, Russia, India, China – that are seen as four of the key emerging global economic powers in the modern age. I wanted to take a look at some of the demographic connections between US metros and these nations by looking at the foreign born population from each of those countries. Now, people can be of say Indian origin without being born in India. Ethnicity is another way to look at it, but we’ll save that for another day. Also, I’m going to look at total population. This by its very nature correlates with overall region size. But given the fairly small numbers for these, I though a percentage analysis could easily be marred by statistical noise. Note that data may not be available for every metro area given the limits of the American Community Survey data I used for this. Data and maps were generated by my Telestrian tool. Given these caveats, let’s take a look.


Here’s a map of total Brazil born population by metro:

And here’s the top ten metro areas for total Brazilian born population:

Row Metro 2010
1 Boston-Cambridge-Quincy, MA-NH 54,389
2 New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island, NY-NJ-PA 47,788
3 Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach, FL 39,471
4 Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana, CA 13,205
5 Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, CT 11,576
6 Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL 11,506
7 Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta, GA 9,220
8 Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV 9,163
9 Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD 8,777
10 San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, CA 8,358

This is interesting. I did this analysis because of a piece Jim Russell did a while back talking about the high Brazilian concentration in Boston, which we see has the highest total of Brazilian born people in the country. This was a big surprise to me. I would probably have just assumed Miami or maybe New York since it is so huge. It’s interesting to see that the Northeast Corridor is so strongly represented here.


Here’s the map for Russia:

And here are the top 10:

Row Metro 2010
1 New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island, NY-NJ-PA 95,550
2 Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana, CA 24,502
3 Chicago-Joliet-Naperville, IL-IN-WI 16,101
4 Boston-Cambridge-Quincy, MA-NH 15,113
5 San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, CA 12,979
6 Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA 10,115
7 Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV 10,105
8 Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD 9,937
9 Sacramento–Arden-Arcade–Roseville, CA 9,017
10 Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, OR-WA 8,667

Interesting to me to see the Pacific Northwest well represented, though I guess it is close to Russia in a way. Portland particularly punch above its weight here. It would be interesting to know how many Russian emigres to the US are de facto Jewish refugees. But I don’t have that data.


Here’s the map:

And here’s the top 10:

Row Metro 2010
1 New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island, NY-NJ-PA 299,908
2 Chicago-Joliet-Naperville, IL-IN-WI 119,242
3 San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA 79,482
4 Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV 78,523
5 San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, CA 77,464
6 Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana, CA 73,063
7 Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX 69,567
8 Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD 61,953
9 Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, TX 60,481
10 Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta, GA 49,325

I’m surprised by this as well. I would have thought the west coast would dominate. (Though if you total up the Bay Area it would be #2). The southern mega-boomtowns are holding their own quite well here.


First the map:

And the top 10:

Row Geography 2010
1 New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island, NY-NJ-PA 449,391
2 Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana, CA 287,813
3 San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, CA 255,675
4 San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA 91,337
5 Boston-Cambridge-Quincy, MA-NH 74,119
6 Chicago-Joliet-Naperville, IL-IN-WI 63,706
7 Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV 61,041
8 Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, TX 51,267
9 Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA 48,540
10 Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD 42,753

I’d be curious to hear everyone else’s impressions of these numbers.

Topics: Demographic Analysis, Globalization

11 Responses to “Where the BRICs Are”

  1. F says:

    A lot of immigrant populations are self-perpetuating — people move where there’s a network of people linked to them by origin or at least by language. New England has historically had a lot of immigrants from Cape Verde, the Azores and Madeira, who were attracted in the 19th century by the similarity of fishing techniques used on opposite sides of the Atlantic. Hence a high percentage of Portuguese-speaking immigrants still end up there.

    Similarly, ethnic Russians have settled down in the Pacific Northwest since the “first wave” of immigration after the Revolution. I suspect you’ll find that the Pacific Northwest Russians are, as a rule, much less Jewish than their New York and LA counterparts, with the Bay Area and Chicago somewhere in between. In the Bay Area, in contrast with the other examples, there is relatively little contact between the older, much more working-class and Orthodox community in San Francisco and the recent high-tech Silicon Valley immigrants.

  2. Harlan says:

    Looking just at the maps, they don’t look that different. Immigrants move to urban areas. Is there a way to re-code the data to indicate “more than expected” or something?

  3. Matthew Hall says:

    Cincinnati, for one, attracts many more russians, indians and chinese than Brazilians. I regularly meet western european professionals in cincinnati as well. More than a few have told me that they were thankful for having found cincinnati after living in other american cities. I guess Cincinnatin’s German catholic roots are still showing and are attracting modern day europeans.

  4. @Harlan, yeah, you’re right on that. As I said, I could have used % of population or LQ to measure concentration, but given the very low totals in most places and the margin of error in the data, I wasn’t sure it would be relevant. It would be nice to see someone do a more rigorous analysis.

  5. DaveOf Richmond says:

    I believe a good deal of Brazilian immigration to the Boston area actually centers around Framingham, and much of it comes from one city in Brazil (Governador Valadares). I believe you’ve written in the past that much of the Mexican immigration to Indianapolis comes from one city in Mexico (was that you?).

    In any case, this seems to be fairly typical outside of the very large immigration magnets (NYC/LA/Chi/SF) – pathway immigrant settling somewhere then telling friends/relatives back in the hometown about it, more come, etc. Which seems perfectly normal – except for the path-breakers, you go where there are people you know.

  6. DBR96A says:

    Looks like Pittsburgh is in the second-highest quintile for all those groups of immigrants, which I’m sure is better than most people thought it’d show. The Brazilian number in particular surprises me. Of course, they speak Portuguese, so I guess they wouldn’t count as Hispanic. Sometimes I get the sense that the only reason Pittsburgh’s “diversity index” is low is because of the utter lack of a Hispanic population.

  7. Chris Barnett says:

    Aaron, for the Indian and Chinese populations, the numbers appear to be large enough that you could probably do a ranking by percentage or LQ. That would probably highlight some surprises.

    A large number of Russian emigres in petro (Dallas, Houston) and academic/tech/IT centers (Seattle, Bay Area, Chicago, NE Corridor) is not really very surprising. And the 49er country upstream of Sacramento is an historical cluster. Large numbers of Russians in Detroit and Atlanta are surprising to me.

  8. Peter says:

    I wonder if Brazilians migrate to the Boston area due to the historical presence of Portuguese in that area.

  9. Alon Levy says:

    For Russians in New York, we more or less know which neighborhoods are Russian (Coney Island, Brighton Beach) and which are Russian-Jewish (Forest Hills, Rego Park). So you can look up numbers as of 2000 e.g. here.

  10. Quimbob says:

    kinda looks like the Brazilian cattlemen are staying in Brazil.

  11. random guy says:

    You should do a composite showing the combined percentage of people from BRIC countries rather than absolute numbers (using total number of people has a bias towards the larger metros).
    I live in Minneapolis/St Paul and half of the people I’ve worked with in the last 5 years was born in one of the BRIC Countries. I’m curious where we rank.

The Urban State of Mind: Meditations on the City is the first Urbanophile e-book, featuring provocative essays on the key issues facing our cities, including innovation, talent attraction and brain drain, global soft power, sustainability, economic development, and localism. Included are 28 carefully curated essays out of nearly 1,200 posts in the first seven years of the Urbanophile, plus 9 original pieces. It's great for anyone who cares about our cities.

About the Urbanophile


Aaron M. Renn is an opinion-leading urban analyst, consultant, speaker, and writer on a mission to help America’s cities thrive and find sustainable success in the 21st century.

Full Bio


Please email before connecting with me on LinkedIn if we don't already know each other.



Copyright © 2006-2014 Urbanophile, LLC, All Rights Reserved - Click here for copyright information and disclosures