Revisiting the Residual Method: Using the American Community Survey to Estimate Foreign-Born Emigration

Mark A. Leach, U.S. Census Bureau
Eric B. Jensen, U.S. Census Bureau

In an absence of comprehensive data on immigrants who leave the United States, the residual method estimates annual foreign-born emigration indirectly. In the past, data from two subsequent decennial censuses were used to measure change in the size of the foreign-born population after accounting for mortality. The change across a decade, or residual, is assumed to be due to emigration. The residual method has been criticized because an observation horizon of ten years likely underestimates annual emigration by excluding emigration behavior of the most recent arrivals. Annual data from the American Community Survey enable much shorter observation horizons, however, and may produce better estimates of foreign-born emigration. The present study assesses the feasibility of using data from the American Community Survey to estimate foreign-born emigration and presents comparisons with estimates based on other data sources and methods. The final paper will include estimates by place of birth, recency, and sex.

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Presented in Poster Session 4: Migration and Urbanization; Population, Development and the Environment