How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Census Bureau history lesson: The immigrant population over time

Photo courtesy of Erica Marshall/Flickr (Creative Commons)


For those who love statistics, the U.S. Census Bureau has compiled a nifty list of historical census facts regarding the nation's foreign-born population, as hot of a newsworthy topic today as it was in the nineteenth century.

Here's nifty historical fact number one:

TheĀ foreign-born population accounted for 10 percent of the total U.S. population in 1850, and 15 percent in1890. Today, the foreign-born comprise 12 percent of the population.

In other words, immigrants are no bigger part of the population than they were 111 years ago, and comprise only a slightly larger piece of the pie today than they did before the Civil War.

Also in the numbers, though, is one telling difference that may well influence perceptions: The ethnic and racial makeup of the foreign born.

From another item on the list:

Between 1960 and 2000, theĀ percentage of foreign-born U.S. residents of European descent decreased from 75 to 16 percent. At the same time, the percentage of foreign-born U.S. residents born in Latin America increased from 6 to 51 percent.

The census stats provide a revealing little window into how we perceive immigrants and immigration, past and present. There are some good links, too, including one that leads to the 1850 census.
blog comments powered by Disqus