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Immigration and Population

In the 1790 census, the American population counted close to 4 million. The census of 2000 counted almost 300 million. How many Americans will there be in the future?

Immigrants arrive at Ellis Island

event, surge, opportunity, persecution, dilution, attitude

Immigration and Population

Statue of Liberty

In 1775, in the era of the War of Independence, there were less than four million Americans. Until 1848, the population was rather small. This was changed by two important historical events; the fact that gold was found in California (1848) and the Homestead Act (1862), an act of law giving away land to farmers.

The population surged after this. Suddenly millions of immigrants came to “the land of opportunity” or “The Promised Land”. Within 50 years, the U.S. population tripled. Until 1840, mainly British people came, but more and more immigrants from Western Europe began to arrive. They came from countries such as Germany, Norway and Ireland. Immigration from southern and eastern parts of Europe and the Far East gradually increased after 1880. Poverty and political persecution were some of the reasons why people emigrated and sought freedom in the “New World”.


The U.S. has traditionally been more open to immigration than other countries. However, since the beginning of the 20th century, and especially after the First World War, many Americans have wanted a more restrictive immigration policy. Those favoring restrictions warn against overpopulation, unemployment, poorer social conditions and a dilution of national identity. Others, with a more inclusive attitude, welcome the cultural riches ethnicity represents. Neither the Native Americans nor the African Americans are immigrants in the traditional sense.

Since 1965, people from countries such as Mexico, the Caribbean islands, and Asiatic countries have been entering the U.S., and some people claim that the USA is changing its color. By the year 2050, whites may have become a minority group.

Tasks and Activities


Immigration and Population - Multiple Choice


Vocabulary Task - Immigration and Population


Create a Paragraph

Find Out

  1. How many Americans there are at the moment. Use Population Clock .
  2. How many Americans will there be in 2020? Use United States Population . Click on Population Projections in the menu.
  3. Look at the statistics below. Which is the fastest growing immigrant group?
Ethnic Group 2010 2050
Whites 79.5% 74.0%
Non-Hispanic Whites 64.7% 46.3%
Hispanics/Latinos 16.0% 30.2%
African Americans 12.9% 13.0"
Asian Americans 4.6% 7.8%
For more information, see the resource: A Nation of Immigrants

Learning content

A nation of immigrants

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