Animation: Visualizing Two Centuries of U.S. Immigration
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Visualizing Two Centuries of U.S. Immigration

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Animation: Visualizing Two Centuries of U.S. Immigration

America is a nation of immigrants, and though the country has seen a lot of new arrivals over the past two centuries, the rate of immigration has been far from steady.

War, famine, economic boom and bust, religious persecution, and government intervention have all caused wild swings in the rate of immigration from countries around the world.

Today’s striking animation, by Max Galka, is a great way to see changes in immigration over time. Inflows from specific countries rise and fall, and the top three countries of origin change numerous times over the years.

Below, is another way to look at the ebb and flow of American immigration since the early 1800s.

U.S. Immigration Charts
An important note. This data excludes forced migration (slavery) and illegal immigration.

Let’s look at the “waves” in more detail.

Wave one: The Old Immigration

From 1820 to 1870, over 7.5 million immigrants made their way over to the United States, effectively doubling the young country’s population in only half a decade.

Ireland, which was in the throes of the Potato Famine, saw half its population set sail for the U.S. during that time. This wave of immigration can still be seen in today’s demographics. There are now more Irish-Americans than there are Irish nationals.

The magnetic pull of the New World was profoundly felt in Germany as well. Growing public unrest in the region, caused by heavy taxation and political censorship, culminated in the German revolutions of 1848-49. Faced with severe hardship at home, millions of Germans made their way to America over the 1800s. It’s estimated that one-third of the total ethnic German population in the world now lives in the United States.

Wave Two: Gold Rush

Much of America’s early immigration was from various points in Europe, but there was one prominent exception: China.

The discovery of gold in California inspired Chinese workers to seek their fortune in America. After a crop failure in Southern China in 1852, tens of thousands of Chinese immigrants flooded into San Francisco.

Although the State of California was making millions of dollars off its Foreign Miners Tax, sentiment towards Chinese workers began to sour. Gold mines were being tapped out and white Californians blamed the Chinese for driving wages down.

Chinamen are getting to be altogether too plentiful in this country.

– John Bigler, Governor of California (1852-1856)

By 1882, the newly enacted the Chinese Exclusion Act had a chilling effect on Chinese immigration. The Exclusion Act has the dubious distinction of being the only American law barring a specific group from immigrating to the United States.

Wave Three: The New Immigration

The wave of immigration leading into the 20th century is referred to as The New Immigration.

In 1890, Ellis Island was designated as the main point of entry for newcomers entering the United States. In 1907 alone, Ellis Island processed a staggering 1,285,349 immigrants. To put this number in perspective, if all of those people settled in one place, they would’ve formed America’s fourth largest city almost overnight.

This massive influx of people into New York had profound implications on the city itself. In 1910, Manhattan’s population density was an astronomical 101,548 humans per square mile.

The immigrants arriving during this period – heavily represented by Italians, Hungarians, and Russians – were seeking religious freedom and economic opportunity. Certain industries, such as steel, meat-packing, and mining, were staffed by many new arrivals to the country.

During this time, one in four American workers were foreign-born.

The Great Depression

The National Origins Act’s quota system, which took effect in 1929, essentially slammed the door on most immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe. Shortly after, the Great Depression further put a damper on immigration that would last well into the 20th century.

Wave Four: Mexico

After decades of sluggish immigration, the United States’ percentage of foreign-born citizens reached a low of 4.7% in 1970. But that was all about to change.

During the next decade, the number of states where Mexico was the top country of origin doubled in a single decade, and Mexicans became the dominant foreign-born population in the country. This migration was fueled by the Latin American debt crisis and later by NAFTA. The influx of cheap corn into Mexico caused hundreds of thousands of Mexicans from rural areas to search for more favorable economic opportunities. America was the obvious choice, particularly during the economic expansion of the 1990s.

U.S. Hispanic Population Map

This wave of immigration has shifted the country’s demographics considerably. Today, nearly one in five people in the United States are Hispanic.

Current Trends

Immigration trends are continually evolving, and America’s newest immigrants are often more likely to come from China or India. In fact, both countries surpassed Mexico as countries of origin for immigrants arriving in the U.S. in 2013. Today, the trend is even more pronounced.

us immigration top 5

Recent immigration numbers indicate that Asian immigrants will continue to shift America’s demographics in a new direction. Perhaps a new wave in the making?

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Demographics

Charted: The Working Hours of Americans at Different Income Levels

This graphic shows the average working hours between higher and lower-income groups in America, based on income percentile.

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Average working hours in America

The Actual Working Hours of Different Income Levels

Do you really need to work 100-hour weeks for success?

In 2021, America’s top 10% of income earners made at least $129,181 a year—more than double the average individual income across the country.

When looking at differences between income groups, there are many preconceived notions about the work involved. But what are the actual average working hours for different income groups?

This graphic by Ruben Berge Mathisen uses the latest U.S. Census data to show the average working hours of Americans at different income levels.

Comparing Average Work Weeks

The data used for this graphic comes from the U.S. Census Bureau’s May 2022 Current Population Survey, which surveys more than 8,000 Americans from various socioeconomic backgrounds.

Importantly, the data reflects the average work hours that respondents in each income percentile “actually” work each week, and not what’s on their contract. This also includes overtime, other jobs, or side gigs.

According to the survey data, America’s top 10% income percentile works 4.4 hours more each week than those in the bottom 10%. And in surveys across other countries, though with hundreds of respondents instead of thousands, the discrepancy was similar:

While both income and wealth gaps are generally widening globally, it’s interesting to see that higher earners aren’t necessarily working more hours to achieve their increasingly larger salaries.

In fact, the top 10% in the 27 countries shown in the graphic are actually working around 1 hour less each week than the bottom 10%, at least among full-time workers.

Zooming Out: Average Working Hours per Country

Similarities arise when comparing average working hours across different countries. For starters, people living in poorer countries typically work longer hours.

According to Our World in Data, the average worker in Cambodia works about 9.4 hours a day, while in Switzerland, people work an average of 6 hours a day.

While many factors contribute to this discrepancy in working hours, one large factor cited is tech innovation, or things like physical machines, processes, and systems that make work more efficient and productive. This allows wealthier countries (and industries) to increase their output without putting in as many hours.

For example, from 1948 to 2011, farm production per hour in the U.S. became 16x more productive, thanks to innovations like improved machinery, better fertilizers, and more efficient land management systems.

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Demographics

Visualizing The European Union’s Aging Population by 2100

The EU’s population is aging rapidly. By 2100, more than 30% of the region’s population is expected to be 65 or older.

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EUs population by 2100

The EU’s Population by 2100

View a higher resolution version of this map.

Many countries and regions are expected to see rapidly aging demographics, and the EU is a notable example. By the end of the century, more than 30% of the region’s population is expected to be 65 or older.

This graphic by Gilbert Fontana uses data from Eurostat to show how the EU’s population is projected to change by 2100. In the article below, we explain how this shift could have a dire impact on the region’s economic growth.

Dependency Ratio from 2021 to 2100

The graphic highlights the old-age dependency ratio, which measures the ratio of people 65 and above, and generally retired or needing supplemental income, compared to the number of people that are working age (15-64).

In 2021, the EU’s dependency ratio was 32. This meant that for every 100 working-age people, there were 32 elderly people. By 2100, this ratio is expected to increase to 57.

But what’s the real-life impact of this?

The Impact of the EU’s Aging Population

Typically, the retirement age population is not working and relies on pensions to support themselves financially. Therefore, the bigger the elderly population, the more pressure put on a country’s social safety net.

AgeEU Population (2021)EU Population (2100)% Change
<1-1048,495,07542,216,181-12.9%
11-2046,931,54340,137,280-14.5%
21-3050,884,15043,247,514-15.0%
31-4058,431,63845,628,731-21.9%
41-5062,846,62347,136,614-25.0%
51-6063,798,23048,320,559-24.3%
61-7054,466,48447,430,312-12.9%
71-8038,414,11145,671,19218.9%
81-9020,326,43139,411,66293.9%
91-100+3,658,15416,874,396361.3%

As the population ages, taxes may rise to help cover those inflating costs. And a decrease in a region’s working-age population can also have a significant impact on innovation and experience in the overall workforce.

For example, Japan’s population is also aging rapidly. According to the IMF, this could slow down the country’s annual GDP growth by 1 percentage point in the next 30 years.

Main Causes of An Aging Population

Japan and the EU aren’t the only places in the world that are seeing their population get older—the entire global population is aging.

According to the World Health Organization, one in six people worldwide will be 60 years old or older by 2030. This is happening for two main reasons:

To help mitigate the risks that come from aging populations, governments need to ensure their pension systems are adequate and adjusted to account for increasing life expectancies and growing elderly populations.

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