The first American immigrants, beginning more than 20,000 years ago, were intercontinental wanderers: hunters and their families following animal herds from Asia to America, across a land bridge where the Bering Strait is today. When Spain’s Christopher Columbus “discovered” the New World in 1492, about 1.5 million Native Americans lived in what is now the continental United States, although estimates of the number vary greatly. Mistaking the place where he landed – San Salvador in the Bahamas – for the Indies, Columbus called the Native Ammericans “Indians.” During the next 200 years, people from several European countries followed Columbus across the Atlantic Ocean to explore America and set up trading posts and colonies. Native Americans suffered greatly from the influx of Europeans. The transfer of land from Indian to European — and later American — hands was accomplished through treaties, wars, and coercion, with Indians constantly giving way as the newcomers moved west. In the 19th century, the government’s preferred solution to the Indian “problem” was to force trribes to inhabit specific plots of land called reservations. Some tribes fought to keep from giving up land they had traditionally used. In many cases the reservation land was of poor quality, and Indians came to depend on government assistance. Po
Countless American place-names derive from Indian words, including the states of Massachusetts, Ohio, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, and Idaho. Indians taaught Europeans how to cultivate crops that are now staples throughout the world: corn, tomatoes, potatoes, tobacco. Canoes, snowshoes, and moccasins are among the Indians’ many inventions.
The first European immigrants in American history came from England and the Netherlands. Attracted by reports of great economic opportunities and religious and political freedom, immigrants from many other countries flocked to the United States in increasing numbers, the flow reaching a peak in the years 1892-1924. During the late 19th century, the government operated a
In 1924, the first laws were passed that set limits on how many people from specific countries would be admitted to the United States. The limits were based on the number of people from that country already living in the country. In 1965, immigration quotas were established according to who applied first; and national quotas were replaced with hemispheric ones. Preference was given to relatives of U.S. citizens and immigrants with specific job skills. In 1978, Congress abandoned hemispheric quotas and established a worldwide ceiling. The United States accepts more immigrants than any other country; in 1998, its population included 25.2 million foreign-born persons (that is 9.3 % of the total population.) The revised immigration law of 1990 created a flexible cap of 675,000 immigrants each year, with certain categories of people exempted from the limit. That law attempts to attract more sk
The U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service estimates that some 5 million people are living in the United States without permission, and the number is growing by about 275,000 a year. Native-born Americans and legal immigrants worry about the problem of illegal immigration. Many believe that illegal immigrants (also called “illegal aliens”) take jobs from citizens, especially from young people and members of minority groups. Moreover, illegal aliens can place a heavy burden on tax-supported social services. .
In 1986 Congress revised immigration law to deal with illegal aliens. Many of those who had been in the country since 1982 became eligible to apply for legal residency that would eventually permit them to stay in the country permanently. In 1990, nearly 900,000 people took advantage of this law to obtain legal status. The law also provided strong measures to combat further illegal immigration and imposed penalties on businesses that knowingly employ illegal aliens. .
The steady stream of people coming to America’s shores has had a profound effect on the American character. It takes courage and flexibility to leave your homeland and come to a new co
Immigrants also enrich American communities by bringing aspects of their native cultures with them. Many black Americans now celebrate both Christmas and Kwanzaa, a festival drawn from African rituals. Hispanic Americans celebrate their traditions with street fairs and other festivities on Cinco de Mayo (May 5). Ethnic restaurants abound in many American cities. President John F. Kennedy, himself the grandson of Irish immigrants, summed up this blend of the old and the new when he called America “a society of immigrants, each of whom had begun life anew, on an equal footing. This is the secret of America: a nation of people with the fresh memory of old traditions who dare to explore new frontiers.
Today, the total resident population of 281.4 million, is a rich mosaic of national origins, spanning a broader age spectrum and exhibiting a more diverse range of living arrangements then ever before, as illustrated by Census Bureau demographic data.
Here are a few examples:
Of the 2000 population, an estimated 217 mil (77.1%) were White, 36.4 mil (12.9%) were Black or African American; Asians and Pacific Islanders numbered 12.7 mil (4.5%); and the American Indian and Alaska Native population was about 4 mil (1.5%); 35.3 mil (13%) were of Hispanic origin. The Latino or Hispanic population rose nearly 13 million (or 57.9%) between the 1990 and 2000 censuses. In 2000 one half of Hispanics lived in California and Texas.
Some parts of the nation are growing much faster than others. The fastest growth, as usual, was concentrated in the West, where the population rose 19.7 % between 1990 and 2000. Close behind was the South (17.3%). Growing more slowly were the Midwest (7.9%) and the Northeast (5.5%).
Nevada remained the nation’s fastest-growing state, with its population increasing 19.7% between 1990 and 2000. Nevada’s population had climbed by a staggering 66.3.% since April 1, 1990 Arizona was 2d in population growth during the recent 10-year period, with a 40% increase, followed by Colorado (30.6% ), Utah (29.6%) and Idaho (28.5%). California recorded the largest numeric increase of any state: 4.1 million people.
Reflecting the movement of the population during the 1990s and continuing a decades-old southwesterly trend, the nation’s center of population moved 12.1 miles
The United States has seen a rapid growth in its elderly population during the 20th century. The number of Americans aged 65 and older climbed to 35 million in 2000, compared with 3.1 million in 1900. For the same years, the ratio of elderly Americans to the total population jumped from one in 25 to one in eight. The trend is guaranteed to continue in the coming century as the baby-boom generation grows older. Between 1990 and 2020, the population aged 65 to 74 is projected to grow 74 percent.
The elderly population explosion is a result of impressive increases in life expectancy. When the nation was founded, the average American could expect to live to the age of 35. Life expectancy at birth had increased to 47.3 by 1900 and the average American born in 2000 can expect to live to the age of 77.
Because these older age groups are growing so quickly, the median age (with half of all Americans above and half below) reached 35.3 years in 2000, the highest it has ever been. West Virginia’s population continued to be the nation’s oldest, with a median age of 38.6 years; Utah was the youngest state, with a median age of 26.7 years.
About 52% of American adults in 2000 were married and living with their spouse. Another 24% had never married, 7% were widowed. and 10% were divorced.
Of the 105.5 mil households in the United States, 71.8 % included or constituted a family — that is, 2 or more people related by blood, marriage, or adoption. The remaining households consisted of a person living alone (25.8%) or 2 or more unrelated people (6.1%).
About half (49%) of all families included parents and children under 18. All in all, 36% could be considered “traditional” families, that is, consisting of a married couple with children. Since 1970, these traditional families have declined significantly as a percentage of all families, dropping 14 percentage points. However, their percentage has dropped only 1 point since 1990.
While the number of single mothers (9.8 mil remained about the same from 1995 to 1998, the number of single fathers rose from 1.7 mil to 2.1 mil. About 28% of children under 18 years of age lived with just I parent in 1998 (around 23% with their mother only, 4% with their father only), while 68% lived with both parents and 4% with other relatives or people not related to them. Nearly 6% of all children under 18 lived in their grandparents’ home.