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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 queue after arrival at Ellis Island, circa year 1900. Photo.
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event, surge, opportunity, persecution, dilution, attitude

Immigration and Population

Statue of Liberty. Photo.

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, the countries dominating immigration have been Mexico, the Caribbean islands, and Asian countries. One estimate suggests that by 2050 the majority population will not be white.

Tasks and Activities


Find Out

  1. How many Americans there are at the moment. Use Population Clock.
  2. How many Americans will there be in 2030? Use United States Population on Wikipedia. Click on Population Projections in the menu.
  3. Look at the statistics below. Which is the fastest growing immigrant group?
Immigration statistics

Ethnic Group






Non-Hispanic Whites






African Americans



Asian Americans



Relatert innhold

CC BY-SASkrevet av Engelsk for videregående (Vega) og Åse Elin Langeland.
Sist faglig oppdatert 12.01.2022