America's Sources of Immigration (1850-Today)

A state-by-state look at the history of U.S. immigration by country of origin as President Trump blocks immigrants and refugees from Iraq, Syria, Iran, etc. and vows to build a wall on the US-Mexico border.
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Written, Narrated, and Produced by Bryce Plank
Video Editing and Animation by Robin West

Information source:

Music: “Sunday” by Otis McDonald – YT Audio Library

This is a state by state look at how immigration to America has changed over time.
In 1850, the vast majority of newcomers were from Ireland and Germany.

In the 1860’s the labor shortages during the Civil War created strong demand for immigrant labor, nearly doubling the foreign born population in a decade.

1870 saw Mexico become the top country of origin in much of the Southwest, while British immigrants preferred the rocky mountain territories.

The 1880 census showed that the Chinese were coming in large numbers. Many took dangerous jobs in the mines or on railroad building crews. For the next century immigrants from Canada crossing the southern border would be the largest group settling in many of the northernmost American states.

In 1882 the Chinese Exclusion Act blocked the arrival of large numbers of Asian immigrants for much of the next century. Unfortunately the overall microdata for the 1890 census were destroyed in a 1921 fire at the Department of Commerce.

So fast-forward to 1900, the turn of the century, when the territorial boundaries of the continental United States were settled. For the first time Norwegians, Swedes, and Italians were the largest groups coming to South Dakota, Minnesota and Louisiana, respectively.

1910 shows us how quickly things can change, with large numbers of Russians and Italians arriving, the only state where Ireland was the top country of origin was tiny Delaware.

With the American population exceeded 100 million in the 1920 census, there were equal numbers of German, Italian, and Russian born immigrants. Many had fled Europe to escape the horrors of World War I.

By 1930 the industrial revolution was in full swing, and the country was growing rapidly from within, so the percent of foreign born fell. And, for the first time since 1850, Mexico was the dominant country of origin for new arrivals to California.

By 1940, the quotas and other congressional measures passed in the previous decade to restrict immigration sharply cut the foreign born population to below 9%.

1950 saw the effects of the repeal of the Chinese Exclusion Act, as Chinese immigrants were finally welcomed back. Greeks were the largest group arriving in South Carolina.

When Alaska and Hawaii became states in 1959, the year before the 1960 census, Canadians simply crossed the border to immigrate to The Last Frontier, but Filipinos crossed an entire ocean to become The Aloha State’s largest group.

By 1970, the percentage of foreign born reached an all-time low. And with immigrants arriving from a wider range of countries, Italy was the only nation that had sent more than a million people.

In 1980, after Congress began granting more visas to people from the Western Hemisphere, the number of states where Mexico was the top country of origin doubled in a decade, becoming the dominant foreign born population in the entire country.

And in 1990 America began to look like the diverse country we live in today. Mexico was tops in 18 states, Dominicans were the largest group coming to New York, and South Korea and Southeast Asian nations were the leading countries of origin in seven states.

In the year 2000 census the number of Mexican-born immigrants surpassed nine million. It’s also notable that India was the top country of origin in three states.

And the 2010 census reveals exactly why America is quickly becoming so diverse: only five states – all of them bordering Canada – received the most immigrants from a majority white country.

Thanks for watching, I hope you enjoyed that visualization of America’s immigration history. And a special thanks to for sponsoring this video. A membership will give you unlimited access to training on hundreds of topics–all for one flat fee. For a free 10-day trial, go to, that’s L-Y-N-D-A Dot Com Slash TDC. Be sure to use that URL so they know I sent you.

Until next time, for The Daily Conversation, I’m Bryce Plank.


Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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