Use this tool to track migration trends by state since 1900


The NY Times’ Upshot section published an online interactive map which shows how migration into and out of each state between 1900 and 2012. You select the state and then the in or out migration view.

After browsing through some twenty states I was struck by how the foreign born in-migration experience changes dramatically over time. The periods of large foreign born in migration have deeply influenced the popular historical image of the state; these images persist for generations.

Minnesota in 1900 had 29% of its population foreign born and 51% in-state born. In 1960, 5% of the population was foreign born and 77% in-state born. (The balance of 18% were born in other states.) Prairie Home Companion profiles a Scandinavian-rooted community today, when 8% of the population is foreign born and I expect that very few of these are Scandinavian. As recently as 1990, only 3% of the population was foreign-born; it was up to 8% in 2012.

Massachusetts was a high immigrant state in 1900, when 30% of the population was foreign-born and 55% was in-state born. The foreign born percentage declined until 1970, when it was 10%, and has since increased to 18%. Massachusetts is associated historically with Irish immigration, and that’s how it was in many TV series and crime novels. In the new wave, Latin Americans and Caribbeans dominate. Thus, one of Boston’s current election commissioners, Dion Irish, is from Antiqua and Barbuda.

Several states with a popular image of a melting pot have had relatively high foreign-born percentages throughout. All states experienced a reduction during the middle decades. But New York in 1970 had a relative high of 13% foreign born in 1970. In 1900 it was, and in 2912 it was 26% and 24%. New Jersey qualifies as a steady foreign-born state, under the shadow of its neighbor.

California’s foreign-born population at its lowest share was in 1960, at 9%. In 1900 it was 25% and in 2012 it was 28%. California’s immigration image is diluted by the fact that it has had throughout a relatively high percentage of residents born in other states; in 1940, only 36% of the population was in-state born compared, say, to Ohio, in which the in-state born population persisted almost above 70%. California’s image is less immigrant driven, as Arizona’s and Florida’s, of massive in-migration from other states.

Texas never had a foreign born percentage over 10% until after 1990.

Some states have no popular image of immigrants because of persistently low foreign-born populations. The foreign born population never rose above 5%, and historically were 2% or less, In Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana and South Carolina. The in-state born share in these states has generally persisted above 80%.

There are no states with a recently acquired image of a large foreign-born population, because much of the growth in foreign-born residence outside the top states (New York, Jersey, California and Florida) has been scattered among many states, which grew their foreign born population dramatically since 1980 but none had in 2012 over 15% of its population foreign-born except Nevada. States like North Carolina and Maryland saw huge growth but they started with very low percentages.

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