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Charted: How Latin America Drove U.S. Immigration from 1970–2019

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latam immigration driving U.S. growth

Charted: How LatAm Drove U.S. Immigration from 1970–2019

LatAm, otherwise known as Latin America, has been one of the biggest sources of immigration to the U.S. over the last one hundred years.

Since the 1970s, the region has driven the second wave of U.S. immigration and helped shape the country’s future immeasurably. This is especially clear when looking at Census data listing where people were born.

This chart from Latinometrics looks at the history of U.S. immigration considering both documented and undocumented immigration since 1850.

Historical U.S. Immigration

For most of its early history, Europeans drove immigration to the United States.

The UK, Ireland, and Germany were especially big sources of American immigrants well into the 20th century. But around the 1960-70s this began to shift, with LatAm countries marking the next wave of U.S. immigration.

ℹ️ LatAm includes all Central American, Caribbean, and South American countries.

Here’s a sample of the history of U.S. immigration using select years and regions:

Region/Country1850 190019602000201020152019
🇲🇽 Mexico13.3K 103.4K575.9K9.2M11.7M11.6M10.9M
Rest of Asia377 36.7K379.0K6.2M7.9M8.8M9.2M
Rest of Latin America1.7K19.7K217.6K4.8M6.9M7.5M8.5M
Caribbean5.8K14.4K114.8K2.1M2.6M3.0M3.1M
Rest of Europe49.5K2.8M3.7M2.9M3.0M3.0M3.0M
🇮🇳 India-2.0K12.3K1.0M1.8M2.4M2.7M
Africa5512.5K35.4K881.3K1.6M2.1M2.5M
🇨🇳 China, excluding Hong Kong and Taiwan75881.5K99.7K988.9K1.6M2.1M2.3M
🇨🇦 Canada14.8K1.2M952.5K820.8K798.6K830.6K797.2K
🇬🇧 United Kingdom1.3M2.8M1.2M677.8K669.8K683.5K677.9K
🇩🇪 Germany583.8K2.7M989.8K706.7K604.6K585.3K537.7K
🇮🇹 Italy3.7K484.0K1.3M473.3K365.0K352.5K314.9K
Oceania5888.8K34.7K168.0K216.7K238.7K300.2K
🇫🇷 France54.1K104.2K111.6K151.2K148.0K173.6K171.5K
Share of U.S. Population Made up of Immigrants9.8%13.3%5.7%11.0%12.9%13.5%13.7%

LatAm Immigration

As of 2019, 22.6 million foreign-born people in the U.S. were originally from LatAm countries, with 10.9 million from Mexico alone.

Additionally, in 2021 Mexican citizens received the highest number of U.S. immigrant visas in the world at almost 40,600. Immigrant visas are the first step in the process to U.S. green cards and citizenship.

And though Asian countries are beginning to make up the majority of U.S. immigrant applicants and permits, other LatAm countries also ranked high in issued permits in 2021:

  • 🇩🇴 Dominican Republic: 17.9K
  • 🇸🇻 El Salvador: 7.8K
  • 🇪🇨 Ecuador: 5.1K
  • 🇨🇴 Colombia: 4.8K

Furthermore, there is also undocumented immigration to consider. According to 2019 figures from Brookings, there are between 10.5-12 million undocumented migrants living in the U.S.—making up just over 3% of the population.

Here’s a look at the top five countries in terms of undocumented immigration to the U.S. in 2019, most of which are LatAm countries:

CountryNumber of Immigrants% of Total Undocumented Population
🇲🇽 Mexico5,313,00048%
🇸🇻 El Salvador741,000 7%
🇬🇹 Guatemala724,0007%
🇮🇳 India553,0005%
🇭🇳 Honduras490,0004%

The Future of U.S. Immigration

In the last few years, more and more Asian countries are seeing their citizens leave for the United States. In addition, the knock-on effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Russo-Ukrainian War (as well as other global events and crises) could shift U.S. immigration even further away from LatAm.

Currently, the U.S. is only permitting small numbers of legal immigrants to enter the country each year, numbering in only the hundreds of thousands. But as birth rates decline, the growth in the foreign-born population will continue to be a much-discussed and important topic for the country’s demographics in the coming years.

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This article was published as a part of Visual Capitalist's Creator Program, which features data-driven visuals from some of our favorite Creators around the world.

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Visualizing the Defense Spending of Non-U.S. NATO Members (2012-2024)

NATO members have significantly increased their defense spending over the past two years.

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This bar chart visualizes the annual % change in defense expenditure among NATO members (excluding the U.S.) since 2012.

Defense Spending of Non-U.S. NATO Members (2012-2024)

This was originally posted on our Voronoi app. Download the app for free on iOS or Android and discover incredible data-driven charts from a variety of trusted sources.

Non-U.S. members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) have increased their expenditure on defense, with a big spike after the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

This graphic visualizes the annual percentage change in defense expenditure among NATO members (excluding the U.S.) since 2012 in real terms. Data is from NATO.

Non-U.S. NATO Members are Ramping Up Defense Spending

NATO members have significantly increased their defense spending over the past two years, likely due to the ongoing conflicts in Ukraine and, more recently, in Israel.

Twenty-three of NATO’s 32 members are now meeting the minimum level of annual defense spending (2% of GDP) stipulated for countries in the alliance. This is up significantly from 10 member countries in 2023.

YearChange (%)
2012-2.7
2013-1.3
2014-0.9
20151.6
20163.0
20175.9
20184.2
20193.6
20204.7
20212.5
20223.7
2023e9.3
2024e17.9

Estimates for 2023 and 2024. All percentages are inflation-adjusted using 2015 prices as base year.

The majority of these expenditures will finance troops. It also includes payment of pensions, expenditures for peacekeeping and humanitarian operations, and investment in research and development (R&D).

Despite the growth in expenditures by non-U.S. members, America is still the most significant contributor to NATO’s budget. In 2023, the U.S. accounted for $860 billion spent by member countries in the organization, representing 68% of the total expenditure. This amount is over 10 times more than that of the second-placed country, Germany.

If you enjoy posts like these, check out Breaking Down $1.3T in NATO Defense Spending, which visualizes the expected defense expenditures of NATO members in 2023.

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