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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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Markets

Ranked: The Best and Worst Pension Plans, by Country

As the global population ages, pension reform is more important than ever. Here’s a breakdown of how key countries rank in terms of pension plans.

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Ranked: Countries with the Best and Worst Pension Plans

The global population is aging—by 2050, one in six people will be over the age of 65.

As our aging population nears retirement and gets closer to cashing in their pensions, countries need to ensure their pension systems can withstand the extra strain.

This graphic uses data from the Melbourne Mercer Global Pension Index (MMGPI) to showcase which countries are best equipped to support their older citizens, and which ones aren’t.

The Breakdown

Each country’s pension system has been shaped by its own economic and historical context. This makes it difficult to draw precise comparisons between countries—yet there are certain universal elements that typically lead to adequate and stable support for older citizens.

MMGPI organized these universal elements into three sub-indexes:

  • Adequacy: The base-level of income, as well as the design of a region’s private pension system.
  • Sustainability: The state pension age, the level of advanced funding from government, and the level of government debt.
  • Integrity: Regulations and governance put in place to protect plan members.

These three measures were used to rank the pension system of 37 different countries, representing over 63% of the world’s population.

Here’s how each country ranked:

CountryOverall ValueAdequacySustainabilityIntegrity
Argentina39.543.131.944.4
Australia75.370.373.585.7
Austria53.968.222.974.4
Brazil55.971.827.769.8
Canada69.27061.878.2
Chile68.759.471.779.2
China48.760.536.746.5
Colombia58.461.44670.8
Denmark80.377.58282.2
Finland73.673.260.792.3
France60.279.14156.8
Germany66.178.344.976.4
Hong Kong61.954.554.586.9
India45.839.944.956.3
Indonesia52.246.747.667.5
Ireland67.381.544.676.3
Italy52.267.41974.5
Japan48.354.632.260.8
Korea49.847.552.649.6
Malaysia60.650.560.576.9
Mexico45.337.557.141.3
Netherlands8178.578.388.9
New Zealand70.170.961.580.7
Norway71.271.656.890.6
Peru58.56052.464.7
Philippines43.73955.534.7
Poland57.462.545.366
Saudi Arabia57.159.650.562.2
Singapore70.873.859.781.4
South Africa52.642.34678.4
Spain54.77026.969.1
Sweden72.367.57280.2
Switzerland66.757.665.483
Thailand39.435.838.846.1
Turkey42.242.627.162.8
UK64.46055.384
U.S.60.658.862.960.4

The Importance of Sustainability

While all three sub-indexes are important to consider when ranking a country’s pension system, sustainability is particularly significant in the modern context. This is because our global population is increasingly skewing older, meaning an influx of people will soon be cashing in their retirement funds. As a consequence, countries need to ensure their pension systems are sustainable over the long-term.

There are several factors that affect a pension system’s sustainability, including a region’s private pension system, the state pension age, and the balance between workers and retirees.

The country with the most sustainable pension system is Denmark. Not only does the country have a strong basic pension plan—it also has a mandatory occupational scheme, which means employers are obligated by law to provide pension plans for their employees.

Adequacy versus Sustainability

Several countries scored high on adequacy but ranked low when it came to sustainability. Here’s a comparison of both measures, and how each country scored:

Ireland took first place for adequacy, but scored relatively low on the sustainability front at 27th place. This can be partly explained by Ireland’s low level of occupational coverage. The country also has a rapidly aging population, which skews the ratio of workers to retirees. By 2050, Ireland’s worker to retiree ratio is estimated to go from 5:1 to 2:1.

Similar to Ireland, Spain ranks high in adequacy but places extremely low in sustainability.

There are several possible explanations for this—while occupational pension schemes exist, they are optional and participation is low. Spain also has a low fertility rate, which means their worker-to-retiree ratio is expected to decrease.

Steps Towards a Better System

All countries have room for improvement—even the highest-ranking ones. Some general recommendations from MMGPI on how to build a better pension system include:

  • Increasing the age of retirement: Helps maintain a more balanced worker-to-retiree ratio.
  • Enforcing mandatory occupational schemes: Makes employers obligated to provide pension plans for their employees.
  • Limiting access to benefits: Prevents people from dipping into their savings preemptively, thus preserving funds until retirement.
  • Establishing strong pension assets to fund future liabilities: Ideally, these assets are more than 100% of a country’s GDP.
  • Pension systems across the globe are under an increasing amount of pressure. It’s time for countries to take a hard look at their pension systems to make sure they’re ready to support their aging population.

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Technology

Animated Map: What America Searched for on Google, Over the Last Decade

This fascinating animated map provides an overview of the top trending Google searches in every state over the last decade.

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What America Searched for on Google, in the Last Decade

Cultural shifts come in many shapes and forms, and some are harder to measure than others.

Thankfully, Google search volume provides an easy avenue for measuring large-scale cultural trends. And because Google makes up more than 90% of all internet searches in the U.S., looking at what’s trending on Google is a great way to understand the shifting questions and interests that are captivating society at any given time.

This animated map by V1 Analytics provides an overview of the top trending Google searches in every state over the last decade. It sheds light on what types of new information, events, and stories received the most attention in the last ten years—and more generally, it shows us what the U.S. population has been thinking about.

Trending Searches versus Top Searches

Before diving into the top trends of the decade, it’s worth taking a moment to distinguish between “trending searches” and “top searches”:

  • Trending Searches: Keywords that had the largest increase in traffic, in a specific period of time
  • Top Searches: The most searched keywords in a given time frame

This video would look a lot different, and a lot less interesting, if it showed Google’s top searches. To give some perspective, here are the Top 10 Searches in the U.S. (as of 2020):

RankKeyword
#1facebook
#2youtube
#3amazon
#4gmail
#5google
#6weather
#7ebay
#8yahoo
#9walmart
#10yahoo mail

Understanding the difference between trending searches and top searches is important because it gives us insight into why certain keywords trend in some places, but not others. For instance, in March 2020, the word “coronavirus” was trending throughout a majority of the U.S., with a few exceptions—it wasn’t trending in Massachusetts, California, Texas, Nevada, or Arizona.

It’s easy to make the assumption that people in these states were not concerned about COVID-19—however, that’s not necessarily the case.

It’s important to remember that trending searches are measured by the increase of traffic, not just the overall amount of searches. Therefore, in states where it wasn’t trending, the word “coronavirus” may have already been a popular search term for a while, so the keyword didn’t see a sudden spike in interest like it did in other places.

Undivided Attention

In the last decade, there were moments when the entire country was googling the same thing. Some keyword trends lasted a day, while others lasted over a week.

Here’s a look at keywords that took over the whole U.S, and when they were trending unanimously:

Date RangeCategorySearch Term
Feb 4, 2011MusicAdele
Feb 6 - Feb 23, 2011MusicBorn This Way
Feb 28, 2011MusicBorn This Way
March 22 - Apr 1, 2011Pop CultureRebecca Black
June 12 - June 27, 2011TV & FilmGame of Thrones
Nov 9, 2012Current EventsAbortion
Jan 10 - Jan 27, 2014TV & FilmFrozen
Feb 28 - March 2, 2014ElectronicsSamsung Galaxy s5
Jan 11 - Jan 13, 2015MusicBlank Space
Feb 26 - Mar 30, 2015MusicUptown Funk
June 5, 2015Pop CultureCaitlyn Jenner
June 16 - June 19, 2015TV & FilmJurassic World
Feb 26, 2016Pop CultureDamn Daniel
June 3, 2016Pop CultureHarambe
June 20, 2016TV & FilmFinding Dory
June 30, 2016TV & FilmFinding Dory
July 6, 2016TV & FilmFinding Dory
Aug 4 - Aug 7, 2016TV & FilmSuicide Squad
Aug 24 - Sept 8, 2016Pop CultureHarambe
Sept 23 - Sept 26, 2016Pop CultureBrad Pitt
Oct 21, 2016ElectronicsGoogle Pixel
Nov 24, 2016ElectronicsGoogle Pixel
Dec 14 - Dec 20, 2016Current EventsAleppo
Jan 7 - Jan 10, 2017TV & FilmThis Is Us
Jan 23 - Feb 2, 2017TV & FilmThis Is Us
Feb 8 - Feb 12, 2017SportsSuper bowl
Feb 22 - Feb 24, 2017TV & FilmThis Is Us
March 7 - March 11, 2017ElectronicsNintendo Switch
March 21 - Apr 1, 2017TV & FilmBeauty and the Beast
May 7 - May 16, 2017Pop CultureFidget Spinner
June 17 - July 18, 2017MusicDespacito
Sept 22, 2017TV & FilmIt
Oct 13, 2017Current EventsHarvey Weinstein
Nov 3, 2017Current EventsKevin Spacey
Jan 12 - Jan 23, 2018Current EventsLogan Paul
Feb 6 - Feb 11, 2018TV & FilmAltered Carbon
March 15 - March 29, 2018Video GamesFortnite
May 4, 2018Video GamesFortnite
July 21, 2018Video GamesFortnite
Aug 5 - Aug 22, 2018Video GamesFortnite
Jan 17 - Feb 3, 2019Music7 Rings
Feb 21 - Feb 23, 2019Current EventsJussie Smollett
March 12 - March 22, 2019TV & FilmCaptain Marvel
March 27, 2019MusicBillie Eilish
March 30, 2019MusicBillie Eilish
Aug 24 - Aug 27, 2019MusicBillie Eilish
Oct 9 - Oct 29, 2019TV & FilmJoker
Nov 20 - Nov 24, 2019TV & FilmThe Mandalorian
Dec 5 - Dec 14, 2019Pop CultureBaby Yoda
Jan 15, 2020Current EventsPrince Harry
Jan 20, 2020Current EventsPrince Harry
Feb 13 - Feb 15, 2020TV & FilmJojo Rabbit
May 5 - May 14, 2020Current EventsElon Musk
June 24, 2020Current EventsBubba Wallace

It’s interesting to look at the variety of topics that dominate the population’s collective thoughts. There’s a unique mix of popular culture, entertainment, electronics, prominent figures, and public scandals.

Something else worth noting is how country-wide trends became a lot more common in the latter part of the decade—in 2019 for example, 9 keywords trended unanimously. This was more than in the entire first half of the decade.

While the secret to going viral remains a mystery, one thing remains clear—the public certainly has a broad range of interests. So really, it’s anyone’s game.

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