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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.

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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United States

How Much Do Americans Trust the Media?

Media trust among Americans has reached its lowest point since Trump won the 2016 presidential election.



How Much Do Americans Trust the Media?

Media trust among Americans has reached its lowest point in six years.

Gallup began its survey on media trust in 1972, repeating it in 1974 and 1976. After a long period, the public opinion firm restarted the polls in 1997 and has asked Americans about their confidence level in the mass media—newspapers, TV, and radio—almost every year since then.

The above graphic illustrates Gallup’s latest poll results, conducted in September 2023.

Americans’ Trust in Mass Media, 1972-2023

Americans’ confidence in the mass media has sharply declined over the last few decades.

Trust in the mass media% Great deal/Fair amount% Not very much% None at all

In 2016, the number of respondents trusting media outlets fell below the tally of those who didn’t trust the media at all. This is the first time that has happened in the poll’s history.

That year was marked by sharp criticism of the media from then-presidential candidate Donald Trump.

In 2017, the use of the term ‘fake news’ rose by 365% on social media, and the term was named the word of the year by dictionary publisher Collins.

The Lack of Faith in Institutions and Social Media

Although there’s no single reason to explain the decline of trust in the traditional media, some studies point to potential drivers.

According to Michael Schudson, a sociologist and historian of the news media and a professor at the Columbia Journalism School, in the 1970s, faith in institutions like the White House or Congress began to decline, consequently impacting confidence in the media.

“That may have been a necessary corrective to a sense of complacency that had been creeping in—among the public and the news media—that allowed perhaps too much trust: we accepted President Eisenhower’s lies about the U-2 spy plane, President Kennedy’s lies about the ‘missile gap,’ President Johnson’s lies about the war in Vietnam, President Nixon’s lies about Watergate,”
Michael Schudson – Columbia Journalism School

More recently, the internet and social media have significantly changed how people consume media. The rise of platforms such as X/Twitter and Facebook have also disrupted the traditional media status quo.

Partisans’ Trust in Mass Media

Historically, Democrats have expressed more confidence in the media than Republicans.

Democrats’ trust, however, has fallen 12 points over the past year to 58%, compared with 11% among Republicans and 29% among independents.


According to Gallup, Republicans’ low confidence in the media has little room to worsen, but Democrat confidence could still deteriorate and bring the overall national reading down further.

The poll also shows that young Democrats have less confidence in the media than older Democrats, while Republicans are less varied in their views by age group.

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