What were the main reasons that immigrants came to the United States in the late 1800s and the early 1900s?


Quick Answer

The immigrants who came to United States during the 19th and early 20th centuries largely came either for economic opportunities or to escape a negative situation in their home countries. For instance, in the 1840s, Irish immigration peaked during the Irish famine, while Asian immigrants came mostly for jobs on the railroads in the West. Refugees from war and conflict were another regular source of immigrants to the United States.

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Full Answer

The economic issues that drove immigration from Europe to America in the 19th century were largely caused by an increase in farming efficiency due to technology. Advancements led to a surplus of labor, and the displaced workers saw the United States as a place that offered them new opportunities. Many of these immigrants faced a double culture shock, not only assimilating into an entirely new country but in many cases switching from agrarian jobs to urban work at the same time.

Religious persecution was another driver of immigration. Scandinavian immigrants fled official discrimination in their home countries, while Russian Jews came to America to escape the pogroms.

Immigrants were rarely met with open arms. Nativist organizations like the Know-Nothings opposed German and Irish immigration due to anti-Catholic sentiment. The influx of Chinese immigrants in the West eventually led to official restrictions on immigration from China.

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