Publication Date


Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Title

International Migration: Politics, Policies and Practices


We examine U.S. immigration history both by recounting the related legislative history and by examining data on immigrant inflows and inflow shares during the period from 1820 through 2013. A descriptive analysis of the cultural differences between the U.S. and several cohorts of countries suggests that U.S. culture has been shaped by the pattern of immigrant arrivals. Broadly stated, American culture has evolved to be similar to those of European societies (predominantly, countries in Northern and Western Europe) and to largely be dissimilar to the cultures of other regions. Following the enactment of the Hart-Celler Act in 1968, the primary source regions of U.S. immigrant arrivals shifted to Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean Basin, and (to a lesser degree) Africa. We find some evidence that the U.S. has become more similar to the cultures of the recent arrivals’ source countries. Our econometric analysis tests for structural breaks in the level of the immigrant inflow and inflow share series. The results support our general findings. We find clear evidence of significant breaks in the immigrant inflow series and in the immigrant inflow share series. The detected structural breaks correspond with key pieces of legislation that have significantly influenced U.S. immigration policy.