If you walk down the streets in the United States, the odds are that one in every four people you’ll see is an immigrant, or was born to immigrant parents.
While those odds might seem high, the truth is nearly everyone in the U.S. hails from someplace else if you look far back enough.
Visualizing U.S. Immigration
Today’s intriguing visualization was created by professors Pedro M. Cruz and John Wihbey from Northeastern University, and it depicts U.S. immigration from 1830 until 2015, as rings in a growing tree trunk.
The researchers turned registered U.S. Census data into an estimate for the total number of immigrants arriving each decade, and then the yearly figures in the visualization. One caveat is that it does not account for the populations of slaves, or indigenous communities.
From the Old to the New World
The pattern of U.S. immigration can be explained in four major waves overall:
The origins of U.S. immigrant populations transform from era to era. Which events influenced each wave?
Frontier Expansion: 1830-1880
- Cheap farmland and the promise of economic growth in the first Industrial Revolution spurred large-scale immigration from Britain, Germany, and other parts of Central Europe.
- The Irish Potato Famine from 1845 to 1849 drove many immigrants from Ireland over to the U.S.
- The 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe ended the Mexican-American war, and extended U.S. citizenship to over 70,000 Mexican residents.
- Immigrant mobility increased with the introduction of large steam-powered ships. The expansion of railroads in Europe also made it easier for people to reach oceanic ports.
- On the other hand, the Chinese Exclusion act in 1882 prohibited Chinese laborers from entry.
- In 1892, the famous Ellis Island opened; the first federal immigration station provided a gateway for over 12 million people.
The Great Pause: 1915-1965
- The Immigration Act of 1924 enacted quotas on immigrant numbers, restricting groups from countries in Southern and Eastern Europe, and virtually all immigrants of Asian origin.
- The Great Depression, and subsequent World Wars also complicated immigration matters as many came to seek refuge in the United States.
Post-1965 Immigration: 1965-Present
- The Hart-Cellber (Immigration and Naturalization Act) of 1965 overturned all previous quotas based on national origin. Family unification and an increase in skilled labor were two major aims of this act.
- This decision significantly impacted the U.S. demographic makeup in the following decades, as more immigrants of Latin, Asian, and African descent entered the country.
E Pluribus Unum (From Many, One)
While others have mapped two centuries of immigration before, few have captured its sheer scale and impact quite as strikingly. The researchers explain their reasoning behind this metaphor of tree rings:
This idea lends itself to the representation of history itself, as it shows a sequence of events that have left a mark and shaped the present. If cells leave a mark in the tree, so can incoming immigrants be seen as natural contributors to the growth of a trunk that is the United States.
It’s no wonder that this animation showing U.S. immigration won Gold for the “People, Language, and Identity” and “Most Beautiful” categories at the 2018 Kantar Information is Beautiful Awards.
Which Countries are the Most Polarized?
This chart plots polarization for various countries based on the Edelman Trust Institute’s annual survey of 32,000+ people.
Which Countries are the Most Polarized?
How do you measure something that’s made headlines for half a decade but is still difficult to quantify? We’re talking about polarization.
How Do You Quantify Polarization?
Edelman’s data on which countries are the most polarized comes from survey results asking respondents two very simple questions:
- How divided is their country?
- How entrenched is the divide?
The questions help bring to light the social issues a particular country is facing and the lack of consensus on those issues.
Plotted against each other, a chart emerges. A country in the top–right corner of the chart is “severely polarized.” Countries located closer to the lower–left are considered less polarized.
In the report, Edelman identifies four metrics to watch for and measure which help quantify polarization.
|Economic Anxieties||Will my family be better off in five years?|
|Institutional Imbalance||Government is viewed as unethical and incompetent.|
|Class Divide||People with higher incomes have a higher trust in institutions.|
|Battle for Truth||Echo chambers, and a low trust in media.|
Following Edelman’s metrics, countries with economic uncertainty and inequality as well as institutional distrust are more likely to be polarized. Below, we look at key highlights from the chart.
Severely Polarized Countries
Despite being one of the largest economies in Latin America, Argentina is the most polarized country surveyed by a large margin. Foreign loan defaults, a high fiscal deficit, and now surging inflation have created a perfect storm in the country.
43% of the Argentinian respondents said they will be better off in five years, down 17 percentage points from last year.
Along with fiscal upheaval, Argentinians are also dealing with enduring corruption in the public sector and abrupt policy reversals between governments. Only 20% of those surveyed in Argentina said they trusted the government—the least of all surveyed countries.
Here are all six of the countries considered to be severely polarized:
🇺🇸 United States
🇿🇦 South Africa
In the U.S., heightened political upheaval between Democrats and Republicans over the last few years has led to strengthening ideological stances and to an abundance of headlines about polarization. Only 42% of respondents in the country trust the government.
And in South Africa, persistent inequality and falling trust in the African National Congress also check off Edelman’s metrics. It’s also second after Argentina with the least trust in government (22%) per the survey.
Moderately Polarized Countries
The biggest cluster of 15 countries are in moderately polarized section of the chart, with all continents represented.
🇰🇷 South Korea
🇬🇧 United Kingdom
Some are on the cusp of being severely polarized, including economic heavyweights like Japan, the UK, France, and Germany. On the other hand, smaller economies like Thailand, Kenya, and Nigeria, are doing comparatively better on the polarization chart.
Less Polarized Countries
Countries with fair economic outlook and high trust in institutions including China, Singapore, and India are in the bottom left sector of the chart.
🇦🇪 United Arab Emirates
🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia
It’s interesting to note that of the seven countries in that sector, three are not democracies. That said, there are also more developing countries on this list as well, which could also be a factor.
Edelman notes that polarization is both “cause and consequence of distrust,” creating a self-fulfilling cycle. Aside from the four metrics stated above, concerns about the erosion of civility and weakening social fabric also lead to polarization.
As global events unfold in 2023—including looming worries of a recession—it will be fascinating to see how countries might switch positions in the year to come.
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