Immigration to the USA

99% of the American people are immigrants or descendants of immigrants. They have all arrived after 1607, when the first British settlement was made.

Both push and pull factors have affected the immigration. A push factor is something that forces or motivates someone to leave an area, such as starvation, poverty, oppression and religious or political persecution. A pull factor is something that attracts people to a certain area. Promise of freedom, resources and improved economic situation are normal pull factors.

It has been four waves of immigration to the USA. The first wave was the period from early colonisation to around 1820. The immigrants came from Europe mostly from England, but also from France, Portugal, Germany and Holland. The most important factor in this period was religious persecution in Europe, which is a push factor. The so-called Pilgrim Fathers came with the ship “Mayflower” in 1620 to be able to practice their religion freely.

The second wave was from around 1820 to 1880. The potato famine in Ireland in the 1840s “pushed” many Irish to the USA. It was also very hard times in Scandinavia, so many Scandinavians had to move to the USA. Both of these two factors where push factors. The pull factor was the Homestead Act from 1862, which gave new settlers free land.

The third wave was in the period from around 1880 to 1920. Most of the land was claimed by now. The immigrants arrived mostly from southern and eastern Europe. In this period, the pull factor was the great industrial development. People came to make the American Dream come true.

The last wave started in the 1960s and it's still growing. It's not growing as fast as the earlier waves, because of the restrictions on immigration. There is simply not enough room for a lot of immigrants. Today most immigrants come from Asia and South and Central America.

From the beginning, the USA has been a “melting pot” of peoples unlike Europe or Africa which are better describes as “salad bowls”.