NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Immigration Patterns Shifting

March 9, 1999

Europeans were the main source of foreign-born U.S. residents until the 1980s. But beginning in the 1960s and growing in the 1970s and 1980s, Latin America and Asia sharply increased their share of immigrants -- who began settling in the South and West, replacing the Northeast and Midwest as favored settlement areas, according to the Census Bureau.

  • A century ago, nearly 90 percent of foreign-born Americans came from Europe -- a figure which, by 1990, had dropped to just 22.9 percent.
  • By 1990, some 44.3 percent of foreign-born U.S. residents were from Latin America and 26.3 percent were from Asia.
  • In the 1890 national head count, 14.8 percent of the U.S. population were foreign-born -- which dropped to 7.9 percent in the 1990 census.
  • The nation's cities had much larger shares of people born elsewhere 100 years ago than they do today.

But that varies. In Miami, for example, the proportion of foreign-born in the population stood at 25 percent in 1920, then fell to just 9.7 percent in 1940. By the 1990 census, the figure had jumped to 59.7 percent.

The nation's foreign-born population reached a low in 1970 -- at 4.7 per cent.

Source: Associated Press, "Europe Loses Status as Immigrant Origin," Washington Times, March 9, 1999.


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