An American ethnic group means those in the United States from the same country: Italian Americans, Irish Americans, etc. But there are some odd cases: Jews, Puerto Ricans, African Americans and people in the South who say they are just American (counted here as British American).
The ten largest ethnic groups in 2010:
72.1 million: British Americans = Britain x 1.16 – Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Graham Bell, James Dean, John Wayne, Robert Redford, Sigourney Weaver – English, Welsh, Scottish, Scotch-Irish, “just American”. Sometimes called Wasps. In 1790 they were three-fourth of the country, now they are less than a fourth. Pretty much ran things till the late 1900s.
50.8 million: German Americans = Germany x 0.62 – Herbert Hoover, John Steinbeck, Dwight Eisenhower, Donald Trump, Sandra Bullock, Meryl Streep, the Amish – Most came as farmers in the 1700s and 1800s to the North and Midwest.
42.0 million: African Americans = Africa x 0.04 – Martin Luther King, Jr, Malcolm X, Barack Obama, Muhammad Ali, Oprah, Beyonce, Michael Jordan – Mostly came from West Africa, mostly in the 1700s. Sold as slaves to work in the south. Freed in the late 1800s but then lived under Jim Crow for almost a hundred years. Millions came North in the 1900s – the Great Migration.
36.3 million: Irish Americans = Ireland x 7.91 – John Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, William F. Buckley, Joe McCarthy, Patrick Moynihan, Eugene O’Neill – fled famine and poverty in Ireland in the middle and late 1800s. Mostly settled in the big cities of the north-east. Largely working class till the late 1900s.
31.8 million: Mexican Americans = Mexico x 0.28 – Cesar Chavez, Carlos Santana, Dolores Huerta, Eva Longoria, Selena – Mainly in the south-west, which was part of Mexico till the middle 1800s.
17.3 million: Italian Americans = Italy x 0.29 – Madonna, Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Frank Sinatra, Rudy Giuliani – Came mainly in the late 1800s and early 1900s, settling especially in New York, later moving to its suburbs.
10.0 million: French Americans = France x 0.15 – Thoreau, Audubon, Jack Kerouac, Johnny Depp, Steve Martin – No one thinks of them as “French Americans” but as Cajuns, Creoles, French Canadians, etc. Mainly from Louisiana, which was once French.
10.0 million: Polish Americans = Poland x 0.26 – Steve Wozniak, Loretta Young, Martha Stewart – Came in the late 1800s and early 1900s, particularly to Chicago.
8.2 million: Puerto Ricans = Puerto Rico x 2.21 – Jennifer Lopez, Sonia Sotomayor, Tito Puente, Alfonso Schomburg – Most no longer live in Puerto Rico itself. Many came to New York – Nuyoricans – in the 1940s and afterwards. The US took over Puerto Rico in 1898.
6.5 million: Jewish Americans = Israel x 0.82 – Bob Dylan, Steven Spielberg, Jerry Seinfeld, Isaac Asimov, Carl Sagan, Susan Sontag, Rod Serling, Henry Kissinger, Leonard Nimoy – Most came to New York from Eastern Europe in the late 1800s and early 1900s, mostly speaking Yiddish. The US now has almost half the world’s Jews.
Chinese Americans are the largest Asian American ethnic group at 3.1 million.
Cherokees are the largest Native American ethnic group at 0.7 million.
- British, Black, French
- German, Irish
- Jewish, Italian, Polish
- Puerto Rican, Mexican
- New York Times: Then As Now – New York’s Shifting Ethnic Mosaic (2011) – Cool maps!
- The word “ethnic”
- American ethnic groups: a brief history: 1492 to 2100
- Posts on particular ethnic groups:
- Some numbers on Black Americans
- Race in America
- The Third Enlargement of American Whiteness – Jews, Poles, Italians