United States Immigration in the 1920s
How Did Immigration Change during the 1920s?
In the 75 years before World War I, the number of immigrants to the United States rose sharply. In the 1850s, only about 2.2 million foreign-born people lived in the country. That figure doubled within 10 years and continued to climb steadily until it peaked in the 1930s, during which time about 14.2 million of the nation’s residents had been born abroad.
During the 1920s, immigration trends in the United States changed in two ways. First, the numbers leveled out and then fell dramatically—fewer than 700,000 people arrived during the following decade. Second, though Europeans continued to constitute most new arrivals, the most common places of origin shifted from Southern and Eastern Europe to Western Europe.
During the early 1900s, growing numbers of United States citizens expressed sentiments of nativism, an attitude that favors people born within a country over its immigrant residents. Anti-immigration sentiment increased after World War I. Soldiers returned home looking for jobs—just as a fresh surge of job-seeking immigrants also arrived. Among some, ethnic prejudice fueled nativist feelings.