International Students in US by Country of Origin – 1949/2020

In the 2019/2020 academic year, there were over 1 million international students studying in the United States. This is a very important figure that has grown by far compared to the early post-war years. In fact, in the academic year 1949/1950 there were 26,400 international students. In today’s article we will better analyze this data by seeing the trends over time. We will also try to understand which nations these students come from and how this data has evolved over time. International Students in US by Country of Origin – 1949/2020.

International Students in US by Country of Origin

What are the top nations in the world for the number of international tourists to the United States? In 2019/2020, the top nation in the world for this metric is China. The number of Chinese students hosted in the United States in the last academic year was 372,532. In second place is India, with 193,124. These first two nations, when combined, exceed 50% of the total number of international students.

In the first nations, in addition to China and India, albeit with decidedly different values, we find South Korea with almost 50 thousand students. In fourth place is Saudi Arabia, with over 30,000 and in fifth place is Canada. Canada was, for many years, the leading nation in the world. In fact, from 1949/1950 to 1972/1973 this nation was in first place. From 1972/1973 it was surpassed by Iran, for years at the top of the ranking and then by Taiwan and China besides India and Japan.

Number of international students in the U.S. – 1948/2019

Above, we saw which are the top nations in the world for the number of international students in the United States. Let’s take a step back. How many international students are there today? How has the number changed over time? To do so, it’s helpful to see the chart below that shows the trend in the number of international students in the United States from 1948/49 to 2019/20.

Globally, the total number of international students in the United States in 2019/2020 is 1,075,496. If we compare the figure over time, it is evident that in the last 70 years, from after World War II onwards, this has definitely increased. If until 1966/1967 there were less than 100,000 international students, from this year onwards they have continued to grow. Except, however, in some specific years. A decrease occurred for example from 1970/1971 to 1971/1972. A subsequent decrease occurred in the first years after the September 11 attack. A final decline finally we can see in the last year. International students in 2019/2020 in fact dropped by 20 thousand units compared to the previous year. An important drop that shows a decidedly downward trend compared to the very strong growth that there had been from 2008 until 2017/2018.

Percentage number of international students

Over time, we have seen from the data how more and more – except in the most recent period – the United States has been an increasingly attractive place for international students. Below we’ll look at some interesting ones about home nations.

Taking 2000 as a reference, the top 5 nations in the world for origin of international students in the United States were all part of Asia. From China, in first place with almost 60 thousand students, to India with almost 55 thousand, passing through Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. It is interesting to note that the distribution was quite heterogeneous.

In 2019/2020 the figures are decidedly different. As mentioned China and India are in first place but together they are over 50% of the total figure. Not only that, among the top 5 positions we also find Saudi Arabia and Canada is also back with almost 26 thousand students and 2.4% of the total. However, it is interesting to note that in the first two positions, the figure has grown considerably.

This different distribution can also be seen with the pie chart below that shows data in 2000/2001, 2010/2011, and 2019/2020. In less than 20 years there has been a very strong increase in international students from these nations, showing how these two nations, first in the world in total population, are focusing on education and how the United States is a popular destination.

Top 25 Institutions Hosting International Students

Total international student data and areas of origin were analyzed. But what are the most popular universities for international students in the United States?

At the University level, the first in the United States to host international students is New York University. Out of about 1 million students, 21 thousand study at this university. Following with values around 17 thousand are Northeastern University – Boston, University of Sotuher California in Los Angeles and Columbia University, also in New York.

The distribution in 2000-2001 was not entirely different, on the contrary. Although the absolute figures were much lower, in first place there was always New York University with 5399 international students, followed by the University of Southern California with 5321.

Top Ten States by International Student Population

One last table to provide the reader with the most comprehensive data possible. What are the top nations hosting international students? In first place is California, with 161,000 international students in 2019/2020 and 14.9% of the total. In second place is New York, with 11.8%, and in third place is Texas with 7.2% and 77 thousand international students.

It is certainly interesting to note the case of Massachusetts that despite having 7 million inhabitants, less so than other countries in the Top 10, hosts 6.9% of the total international students with 74 thousand students in 2019/2020.

Useful data and sources

For those interested in seeing the 1949/50, 1999/00 and 2019/20 data for each individual state, I have created this table. In this table you can see the data for these 3 years. The data can be sorted by the largest value in each column.

To make the video and the different tables I used data from this database: https://opendoorsdata.org/data/international-students/all-places-of-origin/
The database is very well organized and has very interesting data. I recommend it to anyone who wants to learn more about the subject.

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