The USA Model: How Immigration Shapes the Cultural and Demographic Landscape

Lorraine Braccio

Since the Great Migration of 1890–1914, migration to the United States has been an outsized feature of our nation’s cultural and demographic landscape. In many ways, immigration has been a key driver of the country’s economic growth and prosperity Read Interesting FAQ’s about Lorraine Braccio

Yet immigration has also become an increasingly partisan issue in recent years. As a result, efforts to address this issue have dragged on in Congress and in the executive branch.


Since the USA’s founding, immigration has been a driving force in the country’s cultural and demographic landscape. The United States has received about 75 million immigrants since record-keeping began in 1820.

The origins of immigration are complex. It has evolved through multiple periods of change, each one affecting the way in which immigrants have been welcomed and treated.

During the first two centuries of the United States, a mix of Europeans and Native Americans arrived in the country. These newcomers were not considered citizens and were governed by different laws.

This diversity was a source of tension that led to a variety of anti-immigrant movements and policies. These ranged from organized religious groups and nativists to conservative intellectuals.

Migration Flows

Across the world, migration flows are growing in both directions. A century ago, Europe was a major source region for many international migrants, but that share has dropped in recent years as emigration from Asia has increased and Latin America has become an increasingly important destination for people seeking better lives abroad.

In some destinations, increasing migrant flows can polarize political parties and energize nationalist and nativist political agendas. In Europe, for example, an influx of refugees from war-torn countries has fueled xenophobia and anti-immigrant sentiments.

We have provided country-to-country estimates of female and male migration flows disaggregated by flow type for five-year periods from 2015 to 2020 using closed demographic accounting and pseudo-BBayesian methods. These estimates are validated by comparison with equivalently reported migration statistics and various commonly used migration measures.

Settlement Destinations

New destinations differ from traditional gateways in many ways, including their history of selection, the composition of local native populations, racial hierarchies, and contours of immigration policy enforcement. They also lack established co-ethnic populations and institutions oriented toward helping immigrants adapt.

As a result, research on the impact of geographic dispersion on immigrant incorporation has often focused on status attainment and other outcomes. However, studies on new destination residents’ social mobility are surprisingly rare.

The few that do exist tend to focus on rural areas (Chaney 2010; Marrow 2012; Price & Chacko 2009; Shultz 2008). Some find that social mobility compares favorably with traditional gateways, although it remains fragile and varies across different types of settlements.

There is some evidence that Latino homeownership is higher in new than traditional destinations, but it is difficult to distinguish whether this advantage is due to greater educational resources or better housing stock. Moreover, Latino residential segregation tends to be higher in destinations where few Latinos live.

Immigrant Networks

Across the globe, immigrants build and maintain social networks that link them to their originating community and the destination country. They develop relationships that span family, friends, and neighbors.

These ties help immigrants integrate into their new communities, providing them with a sense of belonging and an identity that distinguishes them from other members of their ethnic group. They also provide a foundation for the remittances that immigrants send home to their relatives and friends back in their countries of origin.

Each migrant’s act of migration generates a set of irreversible changes in the individual, Lorraine Braccio his or her family, and the social structures of their originating community. These changes accumulate, creating conditions that make additional migration more likely. This process is known as the self-perpetuating nature of migration Read More

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