There have been four major ‘waves’ of immigration coming into the United States Of America since it’s independence. However, I’d have to say that the most recent wave of immigration has been the most beneficial to the American economy due to three reasons:
  • Increased US population Diversity: America still needs diversity to overcome underlying racial barriers that continue to stunt their economic, cultural, and social growth.
  • Help boost overall economic productivity: In short, immigrants don’t take jobs away, they help create jobs. Immigrants start up businesses and bring economic diversity to the States, which have helped US maintain economic stability for centuries.
  • Immigrants help boost local economies: Immigrants help increase demand for local goods and services, and they tend to move into underprivileged neighbourhoods and help bring these areas out of poverty.

THE FIRST WAVE: 1607-1830

Total Immigrants: approximately 1.2 million

From the first Colonial settlements in Jamestown and Plymouth, America grew quickly from an estimated population of 250,000 in 1700 to an estimated 2.5 million in 1775, when the Revolution began, to a population of 9.6 million in the 1820 census.

THE SECOND WAVE: 1830s-1880s

Total Immigrants: 15.3 million.

As the population of the United States exploded from 13 million to 63 million between 1830 and 1890, a second wave of immigrants landed in America. The port of entry for the vast majority of these people was New York City. From 1855 on, arrivals were processed at Castle Garden, the first immigration center established by New York State.

THE THIRD WAVE: 1890s-1920s

Total Immigrants: 22.3 million

The population of the USA increased from 63 million in 1890 to 106 million in 1920, as immigration hit its peak. For three decades after 1890, an annual average of 580,000 immigrants arrived on American shores, and 1907 set a record of 1.3 million newcomers in a single year. On the eve of World War I, the foreign-born had swollen to 15% of the US population. With 75% of Third Wave immigrants coming through the Port of New York, the old state immigration center, Castle Garden, was overwhelmed. This led to the construction of the first federal immigration center, Ellis Island, which served as the main port of entry for American immigration from 1898 to 1924.


Total Immigrants: estimated 30+ million

US Population: 315 million+

The current wave of immigration is by far the largest in American history in absolute numbers: over 30 million legal immigrants have entered over the last four decades, supplemented by an illegal immigration of anywhere from 8 to 20 million. Primarily from Latin America and Asia.

The Fourth Wave is revitalizing and reshaping American society. As in the past, as the number of immigrants has grown it has produced a new anti- immigrant backlash and a debate about our immigration laws.

By looking at just the sheer numbers, it’s easy to say that the current wave of immigration coming from Latin America has arguably been the most beneficial to the United States for numerous reason.

Reasons for Increased Immigration

“Push Factors” that drove Fourth Wave immigrants from their native countries included:

  • rising population pressures,
  • the intense poverty of Third World countries, and
  • government repression.

These forces combined with the pull of US economic opportunity and freedom to spur the Fourth Wave of immigration. At the same time that America began opening its doors to immigrants again the introduction of jet aircraft which could cross oceans in a few hours greatly decreased the cost and difficulty of travel: a far cry from the terrifying weeks spent on cramped boats by the early immigrants.

Contemporary immigration has increased steadily because it is mostly “chain immigration,” in which recent immigrants use the family preferences in the immigration law to sponsor other members of their families; the more immigrants who come here the more family members become eligible and the overall quota is increased. As of 2006, the US accepts more legal immigrants as permanent residents than the rest of the world combined.

Where Fourth Wave Immigrants Come From

The Fourth Wave is the most diverse ever, with over 80% of immigrants coming from Latin America and Asia, bringing with them a veritable kaleidoscope of cultural traditions.

Fourth Wave Immigrants have come to the US to escape Communist dictatorships (Cubans, Vietnamese, and Chinese) and civil wars (Salvadorans). Most have come in search of economic opportunity (Filipinos, Dominicans, and Indians). All these groups, together with the Irish (the only traditional source that continued to supply large numbers of immigrants) today have more than a million of their countrymen now living in the US, along with an estimated nearly 10 million Mexicans.

Why The Fourth Wave Of Immigration Has Had The Most Beneficial Impact on America

The Fourth Wave has primarily settled in 7 states: California, Florida, Texas, Illinois, Pennsylvania, New York, and New Jersey have over 70% of the immigrant population.

The new immigrants have revitalized many of America’s cities, moving into depressed neighborhoods and made them thrive again.

The Fourth Wave brought an astounding new ethnic and religious diversity – something that the US still needs due to increasing racial prejudice. Now the US has more Muslims (4%) than Jews (3%) and an increasing number of Buddhists (nearly 1%). Mexican, Chinese, Indian, and Middle Eastern restaurants have sprung up all over.

The new immigration is drastically altering the ethnic demography of the Untied States. As recently as the 1970s, the US was still about 85% white, but that figure has dropped to about 60% today. If present trends continue, the percentage of Americans who are white will drop below 50% before 2050.

Long split on lines of black and white, America is fast becoming a “rainbow society” composed of all the different peoples on earth. Latinos have now overtaken African-Americans as the largest US “minority group,” and may well comprise 1 in 4 Americans by 2050. Asian immigrants, a miniscule percentage of the US population before the Fourth Wave, may comprise nearly 10% of the population by mid-century.


The above diagram shows every nation in terms of immigration, America has immigrated more than any other nation on Earth, and as you can see by this image, is the most diverse nation on Earth.

The importance of immigration to our nation’s growth and success has slowly permeated our national consciousness after years of denial. Ellis Island, left to rot in New York harbor for a half century, was restored in time for its hundredth birthday in 1992 and reopened as a museum of US immigration history from colonial times to the present. Its 2 million annual visitors come from all four waves the American immigration experience. Four hundred years after its beginnings America is still a land of immigrants.

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David McDonald

David McDonald

David is a 19-year-old Canadian student currently attending the University of Guelph. He currently studies Public Management and economics with hopes of one day becoming an accomplished journalist. David enjoys reporting on global events and actively try to make a difference in the world.
David McDonald

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