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Visualized: Why Do People Immigrate to the U.S.?



Why do people immigrate to the US? This data chart visualizes the reasons.

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Why Do People Immigrate to the U.S.?

The U.S. is a country created and built by immigrants from all over the world. As a result, it’s home to more immigrants than any other country.

As of 2021, more than 45.3 million people living in the U.S. were foreign-born, accounting for about one-fifth of the world’s migrants. But while some come to reunite with family, others are seeking work or escaping dangerous situations.

So why do people immigrate to the U.S.? This visual uses U.S. Department of State data compiled by USAFacts to show the different reasons cited by new arrivals to America in 2021.

Why Immigrants Came to the U.S. in 2021

New arrival data in a given year includes non-tourist visas, new arrival green cards, refugees, and asylees.

Each arrival falls under a broad class of admission:

  • Work: Includes visas for specialty occupations or temporary agricultural work, as well as new arrival green cards issued for employment.
  • School: Includes student visas and families of student visa recipients.
  • Family: Includes immigrant visas and new arrival green cards issued for relatives of American citizens.
  • Safety: Includes refugees and asylees, as well as immigrant visas and new arrival green cards issued for fears of safety or persecution.
  • Diversity: Entry through the Diversity Visa Program—also known as the “green card lottery”—which accepts applicants from countries with low numbers of immigrants in the previous five years.

In 2021, the United States saw 1.53 million new arrivals. Here’s how the arrivals break down by class and origin:

U.S. Immigrant OriginWorkSchoolFamilySafetyDiversity
🇮🇳 India3.5%5.6%4.1%0.0%0.0%
🇨🇳 China0.3%6.1%0.9%0.1%0.0%
🇲🇽 Mexico23.0%1.2%3.5%0.1%0.0%
🌍 Europe3.7%6.2%1.9%0.1%0.2%
🌍 Africa1.7%1.7%1.9%0.6%0.3%
🌏 Other Asia5.3%7.1%5.4%0.5%0.3%
🌎 Other Americas3.7%4.1%4.4%0.5%0.1%
All Others0.5%0.2%1.1%0.0%0.1%

New arrivals for work were the largest cohort of entries to America, totaling 638,551 people or 41.8% of new arrivals. The majority came from neighboring Mexico, which accounted for 55% of incoming workers and was the largest single country of origin.

School and education saw 492,153 people 32.2% of new U.S. arrivals, with the majority coming from Asian countries. China had the most school-related entries into the U.S. out of individual countries, accounting for 19.0% of total school-related entries, followed by India at 17.4%.

Family entries to the U.S. comprised just 23.2% or under a quarter of incoming new arrivals. In these instances, the largest cohorts came from India (17.6% of family entrants) and Mexico (15.2% of family entrants).

Compared to the larger classifications above, safety (1.9% of total entrants) and diversity (0.9% of total entrants) accounted for significantly fewer U.S. arrivals. The countries with the most citizens seeking refuge or asylum were the Democratic Republic of the Congo (4,876 refugees) and Venezuela (1,596 asylees) respectively.

Growth of U.S. Immigration

Though 2021 saw less entrants than before 2020 as a prolonged result of the COVID-19 pandemic, it still tracks with increased immigration to the U.S. in the long term.

In 1965, the U.S. updated its immigration laws, removing a national origins quota system with regional caps and preferences “emphasizing family reunification and skilled immigrants.”

How many immigrants are there in the US? This data chart visualizes the percentage of immigrants in the country.

Since then, the number of immigrants living in the U.S. has more than quadrupled. As of 2022, immigrants accounted for 13.9% of the U.S. population, or nearly 1 in 7 people.

U.S. Immigration from Global Perspective

The U.S population contains a high level of immigrants, though immigration is an even more pronounced factor in some other countries in the world. For example, Canada’s foreign-born population accounted for 23% of the country’s total population in 2021.

Some countries actually have immigrants constitute the majority of their populations. In the Persian Gulf, the United Arab Emirates saw 88% of its population in 2020 come from foreign countries, while Qatar saw 75%.

Immigration levels have waxed and waned over time, but remains a vital part of the American story today.

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The Smallest Gender Wage Gaps in OECD Countries

Which OECD countries have the smallest gender wage gaps? We look at the 10 countries with gaps lower than the average.



Chart showing the OECD countries with the 10 smallest gender pay gaps

The Smallest Gender Pay Gaps in OECD Countries

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.

Among the 38 member countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), several have made significant strides in addressing income inequality between men and women.

In this graphic we’ve ranked the OECD countries with the 10 smallest gender pay gaps, using the latest data from the OECD for 2022.

The gender pay gap is calculated as the difference between median full-time earnings for men and women divided by the median full-time earnings of men.

Which Countries Have the Smallest Gender Pay Gaps?

Luxembourg’s gender pay gap is the lowest among OECD members at only 0.4%—well below the OECD average of 11.6%.

RankCountryPercentage Difference in Men's & Women's Full-time Earnings
1🇱🇺 Luxembourg0.4%
2🇧🇪 Belgium1.1%
3🇨🇷 Costa Rica1.4%
4🇨🇴 Colombia1.9%
5🇮🇪 Ireland2.0%
6🇭🇷 Croatia3.2%
7🇮🇹 Italy3.3%
8🇳🇴 Norway4.5%
9🇩🇰 Denmark5.8%
10🇵🇹 Portugal6.1%
OECD Average11.6%

Notably, eight of the top 10 countries with the smallest gender pay gaps are located in Europe, as labor equality laws designed to target gender differences have begun to pay off.

The two other countries that made the list were Costa Rica (1.4%) and Colombia (1.9%), which came in third and fourth place, respectively.

How Did Luxembourg (Nearly) Eliminate its Gender Wage Gap?

Luxembourg’s virtually-non-existent gender wage gap in 2020 can be traced back to its diligent efforts to prioritize equal pay. Since 2016, firms that have not complied with the Labor Code’s equal pay laws have been subjected to penalizing fines ranging from €251 to €25,000.

Higher female education rates also contribute to the diminishing pay gap, with Luxembourg tied for first in the educational attainment rankings of the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index Report for 2023.

See More Graphics about Demographics and Money

While these 10 countries are well below the OECD’s average gender pay gap of 11.6%, many OECD member countries including the U.S. are significantly above the average. To see the full list of the top 10 OECD countries with the largest gender pay gaps, check out this visualization.

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