Multi-American | How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

U.S. immigration history, illustrated

Source: Migration Policy Institute
Source: Migration Policy Institute

The Migration Policy Institute released some updated charts yesterday illustrating the historical movement of people into the United States, and seeing the trends mapped out - in some cases going back to 1820 - is rather fascinating.

A line chart illustrates legal residents admitted to the country between 1820 and 2009, with major spikes occurring at the beginning of the last century, and again around 20 years ago. Another chart, above, shows naturalizations since 1907, breaking out the spikes in military naturalizations that took place during WWI and WWII (though the more recent ones, oddly, aren't reported).

Perhaps more intriguing are unexpected charts like one, at left, that illustrates immigrants as a percentage of the total U.S. population going back to 1850. One surprising tidbit I learned at a glance: The percentage of the U.S. population today that is foreign-born is, in fact, lower than it was in the early 1900s and during much of the later 1800s.

Pie charts from the start of every decade since 1960 break down the country of origin of the nation's foreign-born (in 1960, 13 percent of immigrants living here were born in Italy), and one line chart focuses solely on the number and percentage of Mexican-born residents.

Maybe I'm just a chart freak, but I love the details. The graphics also help put the immigration story, as big now as it was a hundred years ago, into context.

The charts are a product of the MPI Data Hub, which produces maps, charts and other tools based on demographic, social, and economic data about immigrants.