As rental prices soared and families took flight over the past decade, thousands of undocumented immigrants have left San Francisco, a new study suggests.
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Roughly 30,000 of San Francisco’s 809,000 residents are undocumented immigrants, according to a study from the Public Policy Institute of California. At just 3.7 percent of the population, that’s the lowest rate in any of the nine Bay Area counties.
Undocumented immigrants left San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties between 2001 and 2008. At the end of that period, the report suggests, there were 12,000 fewer undocumented immigrants in San Francisco, 9,000 fewer in San Mateo and 61,000 fewer in Santa Clara.
“My best guess: I think San Francisco is expensive, a lot of the Bay Area is,” study author Laura Hill said. “A part of it is housing costs. San Francisco is also so small that you could work there and live elsewhere.”
Some immigrant advocates cautioned that such population estimates have historically been hard to pin down.
“One question that always comes up is that you’re talking about a very difficult-to-count population,” Supervisor David Campos said. “It’s hard to tell where these people are. That’s one of the problems we had with the census.”
Campos represents the Hispanic-heavy Mission district, where recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau showed a large Hispanic population decline.
“One of the concerns is the lack of affordable housing and the cost of living,” Campos said. “That has pushed a lot of families out, not only outside the city limits, but to the outskirts of The City where housing is more affordable.”
The study revealed that undocumented immigrants live all across California, Hill said. The Bay Area’s population consists of about 8 percent undocumented immigrants, with agricultural Napa County topping the list at 12 percent.
Hill said her study is the first to estimate the number of undocumented immigrants per county by using information from the IRS. Although many undocumented immigrants don’t pay taxes, the report said nearly 6 percent of all 2008 California tax returns used an alternative identification number employed by such immigrants.