America’s immigrant population today looks a lot different than it did 100 years ago, during the nation’s last wave of immigration. And while this may come as little surprise (a century is a long time, after all), the degree of demographic contrast is striking.

The interactive maps below are based on tabulations by Jens Manuel Kroogstad at Pew Research, using data from the 2009-2011 American Community Surveys and the 1910 Census. Birthplace is self-reported by respondents, and countries of origin and U.S. states are defined by their modern-day boundaries. Click the tabs above the map to select year.

More than 40 million people in the United States — both legal and undocumented — come from another country, making America the top destination in the world for immigrants. Not surprisingly, more U.S. immigrants come from Mexico than anywhere else, the biggest wave of immigration from a single country to the United States in history. Today, roughly 11.7 million people — or 29 percent of all U.S. immigrants — are from Mexico. That’s about five times the number of immigrants from China, the second-largest group. Mexicans now make up the largest foreign-born population in 33 states. But, as Jens Manuel Kroogstad at Pew Research notes, it wasn’t always this way. A century ago, another huge wave of immigrants flooded into the United States: between 1890 and 1919, more than 18 million newcomers, mostly from Europe, settled here.

In his analysis of U.S. Census data from 1910, Kroogstad found that 18 percent of all U.S. immigrants — about 2.5 million people — came from Germany, far more than any other country. Germans made up the largest immigrant group in 17 states and the the District of Columbia. Immigrants from Russia and other former Soviet countries made up the second largest group (11 percent, or 1.6 million), although only in New York State did they make up the largest foreign-born group. Mexicans, by contrast, were the majority immigrant population in only three states: Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.

Source: Pew Research Center


Matthew Green

Matthew Green runs KQED’s News Education Project, an online resource for educators and the general public to help explain the news. The project lives at

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