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What’s Going On in This Graph? | U.S. Immigrants by Country

How has the foreign-born share of the U. S. population changed over time?

This graph, showing immigrants’ share of the U. S. population by year, appeared elsewhere on You can view an interactive version of this graph that shows the percentages of the population for more than 50 countries.

On Wednesday, Oct. 19, we will moderate your responses live online. By Friday morning, Oct. 21, we will provide the “Reveal” — the graph’s free online link, additional questions, shout outs for student headlines and Stat Nuggets.

1. After looking closely at the graph above (or at this full-size image), answer these four questions:

  • What do you notice?

  • What do you wonder?

  • How does this relate to you and your community?

  • What’s going on in this graph? Create a catchy headline that captures the graph’s main idea.

The questions are intended to build on one another, so try to answer them in order.

2. Next, join the conversation online by clicking on the comment button and posting in the box. (Teachers of students younger than 13 are welcome to post their students’ responses.)

3. Below the response box, there is an option to click on “Email me when my comment is published.” This sends the link to your response which you can share with your teacher.

4. After you have posted, read what others have said, then respond to someone else by posting a comment. Use the “Reply” button to address that student directly.

On Wednesday, Oct. 19, teachers from our collaborator, the American Statistical Association, will facilitate this discussion from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Eastern time.

5. By Friday morning, Oct. 21, we will reveal more information about the graph, including a free link to the article that includes this graph, at the bottom of this post. We encourage you to post additional comments based on the article, possibly using statistical terms defined in the Stat Nuggets.


This graph and its interactive version appeared in the New York Times Opinion essay “Why So Many Children of Immigrants Rise to the Top,” published on July 11, 2022. Immigration and the increase in foreign-born residents are hot-button issues. The article explains the findings of the 2022 book “Streets of Gold: America’s Untold Story of Immigration Success” by the economists Dr. Ran Abramitzky of Stanford University and Dr. Leah Boustan of Princeton University. They use U.S. census data to explain the effect of immigrants on the economy. But, here, the graph puts in perspective the size of the U. S. foreign-born population from each of more than 50 countries over the past 170 years.

Now for some shout-outs for great headlines: “Immigrants in America: Then and Now” by Elizabeth and “Quotas Limited the U.S. Growth” by Parker, both from Gladeville Middle School in Mount Juliet, Tenn.; “America: The Country that Runs on Diversity” by Irene of New Hampshire; “Immigration Has Evolved, Here’s How” by Jazarius of Perth Amboy High School in New Jersey; “The US Is a Melting Pot, But How Did the Recipe Change Over Time?” by Musaab, Molly and Emily of Pewaukee High School in Wisconsin and “The United States of Born Abroad” by Colleen from the Academy of Saint Elizabeth in Morristown, N.J.

You may want to think about these additional questions:

  • From 1850 to 1920, immigrants from Ireland and Germany made up a large portion of the total immigration population. Why do you think people were leaving these countries in the early 1900s? What country makes up the largest portion of the immigrant population today? Why do you think people are leaving these countries?

  • What was happening in the United States in 1921 that resulted in Congress imposing national-origin quotas? What was happening in 1965 that resulted in ending these quotas?

  • There are more than 50 countries of origin shown on this graph. If you identify with one or more of these groups, follow its size over the 170 year time frame. When did your family arrive in the United States? Was this a time of great or minimal immigration? What stories does your family tell of their immigration to the United States?

Keep noticing and wondering. We continue to welcome your online responses.

We’ll host live moderation for our next graph on the upward mobility of immigrants on Wednesday, Oct. 26. By subscribing to the Learning Network newsletter here, you can receive notices of the “What’s Going On in This Graph?” releases on Fridays preceding Wednesday’s moderation. In the meantime, keep noticing and wondering.

Stat Nuggets for “Why So Many Children of Immigrants Rise to the Top”

Below, we define mathematical and statistical terms and how they relate to this graph. To see the archives of all Stat Nuggets with links to their graphs, go to this index.


Stacked area time series graphs show trends over time by comparing the relative sizes of subgroups of a whole. The horizontal x-axis is time. The vertical y-axis shows a comparison of subgroups by giving absolute numbers or percentages.

In the U.S. Immigrants by Country graph, the time period is 1850 – 2019. The whole is the total U.S. population. The category of foreign-born immigrants is divided into subgroups by five regions of origin and one subgroup representing all other regions. The subgroup statistics are percentages of the total U.S. population. For example, in 2019, about 3.5 percent of U.S. residents were born in Mexico. The interactive version of the graph displays the percentages of foreign-born immigrants by country to the total number of immigrants. For example, in 2019, 23.4 percent of U.S. immigrants were born in Mexico.

The graph for “What’s Going On in This Graph?” is selected in partnership with Sharon Hessney. Ms. Hessney wrote the “reveal” and Stat Nuggets with Erica Chauvet, a mathematics professor at Waynesburg University in Pennsylvania, and moderates online with Jennifer Braun Paliszewski, a math and computer science teacher at Northglenn High School in Northglenn, Colo.


• See all graphs in this series or collections of 60 of our favorite graphs, 28 graphs that teach about inequality and 24 graphs about climate change.

• View our archives that link to all past releases, organized by topic, graph type and Stat Nugget.

• Learn more about the notice and wonder teaching strategy from this 5-minute video and how and why other teachers are using this strategy from our on-demand webinar.

• Sign up for our free weekly Learning Network newsletter so you never miss a graph. Graphs are always released by the Friday before the Wednesday live-moderation to give teachers time to plan ahead.

• Go to the American Statistical Association K-12 website, which includes teacher statistics resources, Census in the Schools student-generated data, professional development opportunities, and more.

Students 13 and older in the United States and the Britain, and 16 and older elsewhere, are invited to comment. All comments are moderated by the Learning Network staff, but please keep in mind that once your comment is accepted, it will be made public.

You are watching: What’s Going On in This Graph? | U.S. Immigrants by Country. Info created by GBee English Center selection and synthesis along with other related topics.