Salvadorans Become Sixth Largest Immigrant Group in the U.S., Says New Report

Truck selling Salvadoran pupusas in Washington D.C. (Photo:

Truck selling Salvadoran pupusas in Washington D.C. (Photo:

After two decades of growth spurred by a civil war, natural disasters and rural poverty, the Salvadorn-born population in the United States has reached about 1.1 million people, making it the sixth largest immigrant community in the nation, a new study by the Migration Policy Institute says.

The number of immigrants from one of the smallest countries in Latin America now almost equals the immigrant population from China, which has 200 times as many people and about 500 times as much territory as El Salvador, according to author Aaron Terrazas. About one of every five Salvadorans now lives in the U.S.

The five biggest immigrant communities, according to MPI, are: Mexican, Filipino, Indian, Chinese and Vietnamese.

The study shows that the largest Salvadoran community, with over 270,000 people, is in Los Angeles. New York and Washington D.C. have over 100.000 Salvadoran residents, and other important population centers are Riverside and San Francisco in California, Houston and Dallas in Texas, Miami and Boston. (See map in pdf.)

California and Texas host over half of all immigrants from the Central American nation. But the growth has occurred in many parts of the country: 10 states saw their Salvadoran population increase by more than 10,000 people between 2000 and 2008.

Here’s how Terrazas narrates the evolution of the Salvadoran migration to the U.S. in the last three decades:

As civil wars engulfed several Central American countries in the 1980s, hundreds of thousands of Salvadorans fled their country and came to the United States.

Between 1980 and 1990, the Salvadoran immigrant population in the United States increased nearly fivefold from 94,000 to 465,000. The number of Salvadoran immigrants in the United States continued to grow in the 1990s and 2000s as a result of family reunification and new arrivals fleeing a series of natural disasters that hit El Salvador, including earthquakes and hurricanes.

By 2008, there were about 1.1 million Salvadoran immigrants in the United States.

The report also says that Salvadoran workers are heavily concentrated in the construction and services industries and they tend to have “higher rates of participation in the civilian labor force than immigrant men overall.”

AboutDiego Graglia
Diego Graglia is a bilingual multimedia journalist who has worked at major media outlets in the U.S. and Latin America. He is currently the editor-in-chief at Expansion, Meixco’s leading business magazine.