How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Take a guess: Which are the biggest immigrant diaspora groups in the US?

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These new citizens represent part of the American mosaic; a new report on the largest immigrant diasporas in the United States suggests that the national portrait is even more varied.

Which is the biggest immigrant diaspora group in the United States? If you guessed it's descendants of immigrants from Mexico, you're wrong. China? Guess again.

The Migration Policy Institute's MPI Data Hub, which tracks and compiles these numbers, reports that this nation's biggest immigrant diaspora group is German.

While relatively few are foreign born, more than 48 million people in the United States have roots in Germany. The vast majority of them are descendants of the German immigrants who at one time migrated here in large numbers, to the extent that Benjamin Franklin once reportedly referred to them as "swarthy" folk who would "never adopt our Language or Customs, any more than they can acquire our Complexion."

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

The second-largest diaspora, based on MPI's numbers through 2011, is Irish. More than 39 million people of Irish descent or birth in live the U.S.. That diaspora is the product of large-scale migration from Ireland in the 19th century. As with the German diaspora, the vast majorityof Irish Americans are U.S.-born.

Mexico ranks third, with more than 34 million people of Mexican descent or birth in the country. What sets this diaspora apart is that it is a largely the direct result of recent migration: About a third of the Mexican diaspora in the United States - more than 11 million people - is foreign born. 

An interesting mix surfaces further down the list of top 20 diasporas. With the exception of Mexico, followed by Puerto Rico and China, other large diasporas near the top are also reflections of long-ago migration: Italy, Poland, the United Kingdom, France, the Netherlands.

Newer diasporas with far larger numbers of foreign-born dominate the bottom part of the list: The Philippines, India, Cuba, El Savador, Vietnam, Korea and so forth. Canada and the Dominican Republic are also represented near the bottom, although there are fewer foreigh-born in these groups than in others with more recent migration.

There's much more in MPI's updated immigration numbers, a treasure trove that includes historical trends in migration dating back several decades and data on who was coming from where as far back as 1960. View the complete list of stats here.

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