US Immigration History From 1850 to Today

US Immigration from 1850 to Today

While the United States has undergone a Constitution-mandated census every ten years since 1790, it was not until 1850 that the census began taking into account the immigrant status of interviewed individuals. Looking at the statistics from the past 160 years, a few interesting facts emerge.

An Overview

The US is a nation made up of immigrants, but the nation of origin of these newly minted Americans has changed over the years. In the mid-1800s, the largest contributors to US immigration were in Western Europe, primarily Germany and the United Kingdom (which, at the time, included Ireland). According to the 1850 census:

  • There were a total of 2.24 million non-native individuals residing in the United States.
  • Of these 2.24 million, about 2.03 million came from Europe. Of these, 2.02 million originated in Northern or Western Europe.
  • Approximately 1.34 million people were British. About 970,000 of these were Irish.
  • The second biggest immigrant group was German, with about 583,000 people.
  • Only 1,135 Americans were Asian.
  • There were 13,317 Mexican-Americans.

These numbers are especially interesting when considered in today’s terms. The United States of today is a much more diverse place than it was in 1850, with many Americans from places that, in 1850, would have been considered hopelessly remote.

Comparable Numbers Today

The following numbers are culled from the 2000 Census:

  • Approximately 75.1% of the population is White/Caucasian. Of these, an enormous 21.36% claim German descent.
  • About 12.3% self-identified as being Black/African American.
  • There was an increase in people identifying as Hispanic – 12.5% in 2000, compared to 9% in 2010.
  • Approximately 3.6% of the population is Asian.

The government is currently working on the 2010 Census, which will give us an even more up-to-date view on how far we have come as a country.


Guest Author
James Witherspoon
Austin immigration attorneys
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