Blood cell counts often fail to report on immune processes occurring in remote tissues. Here we use immune cell type-specific methylation patterns in circulating cell-free DNA (cfDNA) for studying human immune cell dynamics. We characterized cfDNA released from specific immune cell types in healthy individuals (N=242), cross sectionally and longitudinally. Immune cfDNA levels had no individual steady state as opposed to blood cell counts, suggesting that cfDNA concentration reflects adjustment of cell survival to maintain homeostatic cell numbers. We also observed selective elevation of immune-derived cfDNA upon perturbations of immune homeostasis. Following influenza vaccination (N=92), B-cell-derived cfDNA levels increased prior to elevated B-cell counts and predicted efficacy of antibody production. Patients with Eosinophilic Esophagitis (N=21) and B-cell lymphoma (N=27) showed selective elevation of eosinophil and B-cell cfDNA respectively, which were undetectable by cell counts in blood. Immune-derived cfDNA provides a novel biomarker for monitoring immune responses to physiological and pathological processes that are not accessible using conventional methods.