European Immigrants in the United States

1/11/24  Europe has been a major source of North American immigration and population growth for more than five centuries. However, Europeans’ prevalence among U.S. immigrants began to wane in the second half of the 20th century. Significant changes in U.S. immigration policy in 1965 opened pathways for non-European immigrants, bright economic opportunities in post-World War II Western Europe made emigration less attractive, and Communist governments in most Eastern Europe countries erected barriers to emigration, all of which led to a significant drop in both the numbers and share of European immigrants in the United States. Whereas in 1960 Europeans constituted 75 percent of all U.S. immigrants, their share fell to 22 percent by 1990. While the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 led to a rise in immigration primarily from Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, the proportion of European immigrants in the United States has continued to fall.  This Spotlight provides information on the European immigrant population in the United States, focusing on its size, geographic distribution, and socioeconomic characteristics.