European Immigration to US 1891–1929


Map Code: Ax01322

The Dillingham Commission (1907) reviewed 21 industries and found 58 per cent of the workforce was made up of immigrants. In the same year 81 per cent of arrivals were from southern and eastern Europe, whereas, until the 1880s, northern and western Europe had been the main contributor. The immigrants’ choice of destination also differed. Often enlisted by recruiting agents through contract labour agreements, they would overwhelmingly settle in the urban east, working in manufacturing, mining and transportation. As immigration peaked at almost 9 million (1901–10), so did the impetus for quantitative, qualitative – and discriminatory – restrictions. The Immigration Act (1891) enabled rejection on financial and health grounds; exclusions on grounds of political activities were later added. The Chinese Exclusion Act (1882) lived up to its name; Japanese were later included. The Immigration Acts (1921, 1924) would drastically reduce arrivals by imposing quotas, exacerbated by the advent of the Great Depression in the 1930s.

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