From 1820 to 2013, 79 million people obtained lawful permanent resident status in the United States. The interactive map below visualizes all of them based on their prior country of residence. The brightness of a country corresponds to its total migration to the U.S. at the given time.
Two Centuries of U.S. Immigration (1 dot = 10,000 people)
Over time, the sources of immigration trace a clear path across the world.
Through most of the 1800’s, immigration came predominantly from Western Europe (Ireland, Germany, the U.K.). Toward the end of the century, countries further east in Europe (Italy, Russia, Hungary) took over as the largest source of migration. Beginning in the early 1900’s, most immigrants arrived from the Americas (Canada, Mexico). And the last few decades have seen a rise in migration from Asia. The same trends are clear looking at the history of New York City’s foreign born population.
While it may seem that immigration over the last few decades has been higher than ever before, the picture looks very different when viewed relative to the size of the U.S. population.
Of my four grandparents, one is of Japanese descent, two are from Europe (a Polish Jew and an Italian Catholic), and one is native American. So genealogy and immigration flows have long been fascinations of mine.
What I think is particularly interesting about immigration to the U.S. is that each “wave” coming in from a particular country has a story behind it — usually escaping persecution (e.g. Jews escaping Russia after the May Laws were enacted, the Cuban Revolution) or major economic troubles (e.g. the Irish Potato Famine, the collapse of southern Italy after the Italian Unification).
There are plenty of dark spots on United States’ history, but the role it has played as a sanctuary for troubled people across the world is a history I feel very proud to be a part of.
If you would like to read more about what caused each of these groups to come to the U.S., this graphic summarizes some of the major events.
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- Immigration data: Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Immigration Statistics (download: full report, data in Excel format). The data used for the map is “persons obtaining lawful permanent resident status,” which does not include illegal immigration or, as pointed out by @artsyTrish, people brought to the U.S. as slaves (“forced immigration”).
- World borders: Natural Earth
— Max Galka (@galka_max) May 4, 2016
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