Immigration to the United States 美國移民人口

Winston Ho 何嶸.  
University of New Orleans,
Department of History 紐奧良大學歷史學系.
NolaChinese on FacebookYoutube, and Instagram.   

2020 Jan. 3, Friday.

U.S. Population, Foreign-born in 2019 (Animated, Stats 2019)[Animated Stats, foreign-born U.S. population in 2019.]

Two months ago, I posted an article on my website about the Chinese American population in New Orleans, in Louisiana, and in the United States according to the 2018 U.S. Census estimates:

I also discussed the following animated video from Business Insider visualizing the demographics of the U.S. population according to the 2010 Census:

The following is an animated table from the Animated Stats Youtube site listing the top twenty immigrant populations in the United States based on national origin from 1919 to 2019: 

U.S. Population, Foreign-born in 1919 (Animated, Stats 2019)[Animated Stats, foreign-born U.S. population in 1919.]

The data here is based on census schedules, so the table is not based on rates of immigration each year, but on the number of foreign-born residents and citizens living in the United States at the time. In other words, people who immigrated to the U.S. in their youth at the turn-of-the-century and remained in the U.S. will remain on this table decades after their initial arrival. For this reason, European immigrants who arrived at Ellis Island are on this table until the late-twentieth century, when their numbers declined due to death. However, the American-born descendants of these immigrants and are not counted on this table. Therefore, the number of Americans descended of European immigrants, the Italian Americans for example, are not decreasing, only the number of first-generation foreign-born Italian Americans are decreasing.

U.S. Population, Foreign-born in 1960 (Animated, Stats 2019)[Animated Stats, foreign-born U.S. population in 1960.]

The table demonstrates several interesting phenomena. Immigrants from Germany, Italy, and the United Kingdom were the largest group of foreign-born Americans in 1919, but their numbers steadily decreased for much of the twentieth-century. At the same time, the foreign-born U.S. population has shifted from European immigrants to immigrants from Asia and Latin America. As of 2011, the largest number of foreign-born Americans are from Mexico, China, India, and the Philippines, in that order. Immigrants from Puerto Rico, El Salvador, Vietnam, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and South Korea round out the top ten from 2011 to 2019. In 1919, foreign-born Russians had been the fourth largest group of foreign-born Americans, but their numbers fall rapidly in the 1920s, probably due “national origins quota system,” which was enacted through the Immigration Act of 1924 to limit foreign immigration from Eastern Europe, Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

Immigrants from Mexico have always constituted a large percentage of the foreign-born U.S. population. Their population grew steadily until around 1960. After this, the Mexican-born U.S. population began exploding, surpassing the falling numbers of Italian-born Americans in 1971. This Mexican-born population peaked at 12 million in 2010, and they have been steadily decreasing ever since, while the central American population from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Ecuador has grown.

U.S. Population, Foreign-born in 1970 (Animated, Stats 2019)[Animated Stats, foreign-born U.S. population in 1970.]

By contrast, immigration from Asia was limited by Chinese Exclusion and quotas system, so foreign-born Asian Americans would not appear on the top twenty list until after the Second World War. In the 1952, immigrants from Japan became the largest group of foreign-born Asian Americans, mostly due to the war bride phenomenon. With the occupation of Japan, and the large American military presence there in subsequent decades, American servicemen had been marrying and returning to the U.S. with Japanese women. The military originally discouraged such interracial marriages, but so many marriages were taking place that by 1947, Congress had passed a law allowing the spouses of all servicemen to automatically gain U.S. citizenship, even if the spouses were from Asia. Japan itself had lost much of its young male population during the war, and the country struggled to rebuild its economy over the next two decades. Many Japanese women were thus encouraged to marry Americans and raise their families in the United States. The war bride phenomenon is the subject of a current documentary project by Karen Kasmauski and Kathryn Tolbert: 

Then in 1970, the growth rate for the Japanese-born American population increases, just as the economy of Japan was strengthening, and large number of Japanese began seeking higher education at U.S. universities. Naturally, many college-educated Japanese immigrants decided remain in the U.S. and pursue jobs here, beginning a trend followed by immigrants from India, China, South Korea, and the Philippines in later years (the U.S. Census folded immigrants from Taiwan and Hong Kong into “China” until the 2010 census).

U.S. Population, Foreign-born in 1980 (Animated, Stats 2019)[Animated Stats, foreign-born U.S. population in 1980.]

Immigrants from the Philippines appeared on the top twenty list in 1960, and their numbers have been rapidly growing since then. Filipino Americans surpassed the Japanese as the largest group of foreign-born Asian Americans in 1961. The Philippine Islands were former U.S. territory, and thus, subjected to more lenient immigration laws than other immigrants from Asia. At the beginning of the twentieth-century, most Filipino immigrants worked as farm workers and cannery workers along the Pacific Coast. Many other served in the U.S. military, especially in the U.S. Navy as cook and stewards. Such veterans were allowed to seek permanent residency in the U.S., so serving in the military was a pathway to citizenship for many foreign-born Filipino Americans. After the Second World War and after the Philippines gained its independence, Filipinos continued immigrating to the U.S., though the immigrant population shifted from laborers to college-educated professionals, especially in the field of education and healthcare. Foreign-born Filipino Americans have been among the top four foreign-born American populations since 1985, and they were the second largest foreign-born population from 1987 to 1990.

U.S. Population, Foreign-born in 1990 (Animated, Stats 2019)[Animated Stats, foreign-born U.S. population in 1990.] 

Interestingly, the Filipinos were displaced at the number two spot in 1990 by Puerto Rican-born Americans, migrants from what is today still a U.S. territory.  Since Puerto Rico is part of the United States, Puerto Ricans are not exactly foreign-born.  Nonetheless, Puerto Ricans remain on this list until 2005, when they were displaced by foreign-born Chinese Americans. Foreign-born Chinese Americans first appeared on the top twenty list in 1957, and they surpassed the Filipinos as the largest group of foreign-born Asian Americans in 2004. Chinese Exclusion had been repealed at the end of 1943 during the Second World War, but remained limited due to the quota system. In 1957, some foreign-born Chinese Americans had been immigrants who arrived in the U.S. before or after the Second World War. However, most were refugees from Mainland China who arrived immediately after the Communist Revolution, or had been living in Hong Kong, Taiwan, or Southeast Asia before arriving in the U.S.

The quota system was repealed in 1965, which is the law that ultimately allowed so many immigrants from Asia and Latin America to enter the U.S. over the next fifty-four years. Since then, the foreign-born Chinese American population has grown, with Chinese-born Americans becoming the second largest group of foreign-born Americans in 2005.

U.S. Population, Foreign-born in 2000 (Animated, Stats 2019)[Animated Stats, foreign-born U.S. population in 2000.]

Foreign-born Vietnamese Americans appeared on the top twenty list for the first time in 1980. The Vietnamese were the largest group of Southeast Asian “boat people.” The boat people were living the refugee camps in the 1970s and eventually migrated to the U.S., a group which also included Laotians, Khmer, and minority groups from these countries such as the Hmong (Miao), the Montagnards, and the ethnic Han Chinese. Note that immigration from Vietnam never ended and continues to grow to this day, mostly due to the “chain migration” phenomenon, as established Vietnamese American families sponsor the immigration of relatives.

Rounding out the list of foreign-born Asian Americans on the top twenty list are the South Koreans, who first appeared on the list in 1973, and the Indians, who first appeared in 1975. Foreign-born Indian Americans surpassed the Filipinos as the third-large group of foreign-born Americans in 2010. Interestingly, foreign-born Americans from the United Kingdom and Germany are still on the top twenty list in 2019, the last immigrants from Europe to be on this list. Also, Canadians surpassed the Russians as the fourth largest group of foreign-born Americans in 1924, but have steadily fallen, reaching twelfth-place in 2019. Canadian-born Americans were surpassed by Mexico-born Americans in 1970.

U.S. Population, Foreign-born in 2010 (Animated, Stats 2019)[Animated Stats, foreign-born U.S. population in 2010.]


NolaChinese:  Immigration to the United States 美國移民人口 (  

100 Years of Immigration to The U.S., 1919 to 2019. Animated Stats, 2019. Accessed from Youtube (

2018 U.S. Census estimates for the United States. Accessed from the U.S. Census (

NolaChinese: Population of New Orleans 紐奧良人口 (

“This animation puts the entire US population into perspective.” Business Insider, 2016. Accessed from Youtube (

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