American nation has always been known as the nation of immigrants. Since the very early days of its existence the North American Continent has been flocked with various peoples: from the Native Americans/ Indians to the present day immigrants from all over the world. It’s estimated that about 50mln people came to the USA throughout its history. Even today approximately 900,000 immigrants arrive there on the legal basis annually.
The USA is considered the 3d populous country in the world after China and India. It has the population over 300 mln people.
Number of people
Number of people
B Nationalities & Ethnic Groups
The population of the US is a unique phenomenon because people from all over contributed and are still contributing to the American nation. No wonder, one can find there 106 ethnic groups living in closely fitted communities.
To describe this phenomenon of the American population sociologists use deferent theories and notions. They are:
a) “Melting Pot of Nations”
It is both a theory and a notion used to describe the process of assimilation of different ethnic groups into a single nation with unique identity and culture. With the US the complete “melting” into a single nation occurred relatively quickly within 2 or 3 generations. Thus, the first settlers who came to the territory identified themselves as the representatives of various ethnic groups/ nationalities (Dutch, English, French, Spanish, etc.), but as the time went by the new generations started to name themselves “Americans”.
b) “Salad Bowl”(Mosaic or Tapestry)
Another notion that describes the process of assimilation when ethnic groups try to preserve their identity and culture within a common nation. In a salad one can tell different ingredients, but it still remains a unique salad with various ingredients. In terms of American nation, the people call themselves “American”, but often identify themselves with their ancestry (origin) – “Afro-American”, “Italian American”, “Irish American”, etc. Besides, many of the ethnic groups live in very closely fit communities like “China-towns” or “Little Italys”, where they even don’t need have to learn the language and where they can find a job easily. The only connection with the outer world for them is the younger generation that knows the language and has got an education. These communities try to preserve the culture of the land they come from. Thus, the American culture is made diverse.
The diversity brought about two more notions like multiculturalism and political correctness.
It’s a notion that describes a society as a composition of various cultures and ethnic identities. Multiculturalism is a society “at ease with the rich tapestry of human life and the desire amongst people to express their own identity in the manner they see fit.
d) “Political Correctness”
It is a term used to refer to language, ideas, or policies that address perceived or actual discrimination against or alienation of politically, socially or economically disadvantaged groups. The term usually implies that these social considerations are excessive or of a purely "political" nature. These groups most prominently include those defined by gender, race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation and disability. E.g. “Intellectually disabled” instead mentally retarded; “African American” in place of Black and Negro, “Native American” - Indian, “First Nations” - Indian (in Canada); Gender-neutral terms such as “firefighter”- fireman and firewoman, “police officer” - policeman and policewoman; Value-free terms describing physical disabilities, such as “visually impaired” blind and “hearing impaired” – deaf; Value-free cultural terms, such as “Holiday season” and “Winter holiday”- Christmas
NB! Betty Crocker is an image of an average American woman. The image was first introduced by General Mills, inc. on their products. It changed throughout the years to reflect not only changing styles but also the tendencies of a “melting pot” society. In 1996 they “fed” 75 photos of different women to computer to create the new image of “Betty”! (see the picture)
Ethnic Groups that Live in the USA
American Indians or Native Americans
They arrived to the territory of the present day US some 30,000 years ago. They were mainly hunters who followed the herds of animals. They were living peacefully on the land and close to nature till the Whites came. Initially the relationship between the Natives and the Newcomers were that of friendship and cooperation. The Natives introduced them to Indian utensils, clothing, food, etc. But with time their relations worsened, as the Whites started to cheat them, seize their lands, disrespect their culture and deprived them of their rights. Very soon they became bitter enemies that led to confrontations and bloodshed.
By 1786 the US government began to allocate special territories for the Indians, which were much poorer than they used to have. These were mostly the lands in the Southwest and the Northwest of the USA. Such territories became known as “reservations”. Today there are about 300 of them and they are the centers of Indian traditions, culture and languages. Although the federal government is doing its best to improve the situation with the natives, but still they remain one of the most deprived and unhappy ethnic groups.
There are about 2.5 mln of Native Americans in the US speaking 200 native languages. About 62% of them live in big cities or rural areas, other reside in the reservations which make up 2.5% of the territory.
The Whites or Caucasians
The Whites or Europeans started to come to the US right after its discovery in 1492. They came from Britain, Spain, Portugal, France, Holland, Germany and Sweden. But the predominant group was the English. Thus, in 1780 every four citizens of the US were either of English or Irish descent. Besides the political and economic instability in Europe made about 5 mln people leave their homeland to America. The USA saw the greatest influx of population between 1840-1860 (after the American Revolution and the Civil War). The people were attracted by relative stability and new opportunities of the new state. Furthermore, the States’ government encouraged immigration by providing some benefits and freedoms. E.g. during the Civil War the government of the North encouraged emigration from Europe (esp. Germany) by giving land in return of service in the Union Army.
The next great influx happened 1892-1954 when 12 mln of immigrants arrived. During this time the government tried to introduce the first restrictions on the people coming. First they established a special port for the coming immigrants. It was port on Ellis Island in New York City’s Harbour. There they had to pass a special inspection. E.g. If a person was suffering from TB or had lice he had to go back. If you didn’t have at least $25 on you, again you were sent back.
Communities of Immigrants
north-east of the country
The Blacks or African Americans
They were bought to the USA in the period 1619-1808 as slaves to work on southern plantations. Throughout the whole period they brought 500,000 slaves. The process of ending slavery was long and tough. The first attempt to abolish slavery was with the Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, and later on it was officially ended with the adoption of the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution (1865). But, however, the segregation in the society had remained for quite a time. In 1950s- 1960s the Blacks started to fight for their rights by means of various forms of civil protests. Soon the government issued laws that prohibited discrimination in all spheres of life, thus giving boost to the growth of the black middle class.
They are the ones who have Spanish ancestry. But today Hispanics come to the US from various countries of Latin America (El Salvador, the Dominican Republic and Columbia), Mexico and Cuba. They mostly live in California, Texas, New York, Illinois and Florida.
The Asian Americans
The term "Asian Americans" encompasses a range of people whose ancestries derive from countries in West, South, Southeast, and East Asia with widely different cultures and histories. The Chinese are the largest group, followed by the Filipinos, Japanese, Asian Indians, Koreans, Vietnamese, Laotians, Cambodians, Thais, and Hmongs.
The Asian American started to come to the US since 18th century. One can distinguish several waves of immigration:
The Early Wave of the Asian Immigration (1750-1848); “Contract Immigration”(1865-1882); “Paper Sons” & “Photo Brides” (1910-1940); “Family Reunification” (1940-1970); The Modern Wave of Asian Immigration (1970-…..).
The first to come were the Chinese Filipinos, who settled mainly in Mexico and Louisiana. In 1840 to make up for the shortage of slaves from Africa, the British and Spanish brought over slaves or “coolies” from China, India, and the Philippines to islands in the Caribbean, Peru, Ecuador, and other countries. But the largest influx of Asian immigration was brought with the discovery of Gold. Many Chinese came in attempt to become rich. When the Americans started building of the transcontinental railroad a lot of Asian laborers came to work on contract basis. The XX th century brought about the new wave of immigrants who were either seeking family reunion or looking forward to a marriage.
Since the early days on the new territories they have to live in the communities of their own or enclaves, which survived even today. One can find Chinatowns, “Little Tokyos”, “Little Saigons”, etc. all around the USA – in LA, San Francisco, New York, San Jose, Houston, etc.
They are considered to be the fastest growing ethnic groups in the country with higher income. They are mainly engaged in high-tech industry, restaurant business. They have a higher percent of undergraduate and graduate students.
Present Day Situation of the Main Ethnic Groups (census 2010)
It’s a major problem for the country today. The main contributors to it are the illegal immigrants coming from the countries of Latin America, esp. Mexico. The attitude towards illegal immigration is somehow ambiguous. On the one hand, it’s seen as having a negative effect on the level of wages for the unskilled Americans. The “illegals” are usually paid lower, and at the same time are the competitive factors for the unskilled ones. On the other hand, they do not increase the level of unemployment. On the contrary they usually in for low-end or “black” jobs, which aren’t attractive for the legal citizens (like cleaning the hotel rooms or working as servants in rich households). Of course, the federal tries to undertake some measures to decrease the level of illegal immigration. One of these measures is quite debatable. It is the construction of 1,125 km fence along the Mexican border. The project is quite expensive for the federal budget, and besides, some people doubt that it would be effective.
The US Immigration and Naturalization Service estimates that some 5 mln people are currently living in the States illegally. This number is growing by 275,000 annually.
The census used to collect information about ancestry, but this question was removed from the 2010 census. The latest data, from 2000, shows that these were the largest ancestral groups in the US: