"Old Immigration" and "New Immigration," 1870-1920

Two changes in Europe after the 1870s helped to significantly alter the sources of migration to then industrially booming United States:

1) Growth of industry and low skilled job opportunities was faster in northern Europe. By 1890, more workers were staying home, and fewer migrating to America.

2) In southern and eastern Europe, legal barriers to emigration diminished, and transportation (especially by rail) to overseas embarkation ports improved. This made travel to America almost as convenient and affordable as it already was from northern Europe (while the wage difference between south+east Europe and the U.S. remained much higher than either the north-south differential within Europe or the North Europe - US gap). Migration from south+east Europe to America snowballed.

In the early 20th century USA, migrants arriving from north Europe became known as "old immigration" and from south+east Europe as "new immigration." The map above (Blum, et. al. National Experience (1963), p. 445) understates the overall shift from "old" to "new", because it does not show the shift within "Central Europe" (the single largest category), after 1890, from Germany ("old") to Austria-Hungary ("new"). This change is captured, however, in the bar graph below (Kennedy et al American Pageant (2006), p. 570).

   Green bars  =  U.S. immigrants from England, Ireland, Germany

   Blue bars     =  U.S. immigrants from Italy, Austria-Hungary, Russia