Multi-American

How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Who came from where when? Immigration history in charts

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There's a treasure trove of U.S. immigration history buried in census data, and the Migration Policy Institute has again updated its collection of graphs and charts detailing it.

The data includes some statistics that might be expected, for example the top ten immigrant sending countries (Mexico remains at the top, followed at a distance by China) and the annual number of new U.S. citizens, a number that has dropped sharply since the most recent peak in 2008.

There's also a fair amount of hard-to-guess immigration trivia dating back decades:


  • Which country has the largest immigrant diaspora group in the United States in terms of ethnic origin? Germany. (Mexico come in second, though it leads in terms of country of birth.)

  • Even as recently as 1980, which region's immigrants made up the biggest percentage of foreign-born residents in the U.S.? Europeans. (Latinos took the lead in 1990.)

  • When did legal immigration to the U.S. peak? 1991. (In the last couple of years, it has been down to levels below that of the previous peak in the early 1900s.)


One of the more interesting features is a chart, below, illustrating foreign-born immigrants as a share of the total U.S. population from 1850 to the present. It's thought-provoking to note that today, despite their far larger numbers than a century ago, immigrants make up a smaller share of the nation's population than they did in 1860, 1870, 1890, 1900, 1910 or 1920.

The entire MPI data sheet with links to features can be downloaded here.

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