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A European American (Euro-American) is a person who resides in the United Statesmarker and is either from Europe or is the descendant of European immigrants or founding colonists. Spanish Americans are the earliest European American group, with a continuous presence since 1565. Martín de Argüelles born 1566, Spanish Florida, was the first person of European (Spanish) descent born in what is now the Continental United States. Virginia Dare born 1587, was the first child born in America to English parents.

In 2008 the German (16.5%), Irish (11.9%) and English Americans (9.0%) were the three largest ethnic groups in the United States.

Overall, as the largest group, European Americans have the lowest poverty rate and the second highest educational attainment levels, median household income, and median personal income of any racial demographic in the nation.



In 1977, it was proposed that the term "European American" replace "white" as a racial label in the U.S. Census; although this was not done. The term "European American" is not in popular use in the U.S. among the general public or in the mass media, and the terms "white" or "white American" are commonly used instead.

The term "European American" is more narrow than "White American" in terms of their official usage. The term is different from "Caucasian American", "White American", and "Anglo American", though "European American" is sometimes used as a synonym for "White American". According to the Texas Association of Museums, "European American", "White American", "Caucasian American", and "Anglo" are terms that vary in their preference depending on the individual and their descent. "Anglo American" is a term commonly used in the southwestern United States in place of "white" or "European American" because that term combines a number of distinct ethnicities under a single rubric with origins in the British Isles. The term also has a more specific reference than either "White American" or "Caucasian American" since both of these terms include a larger group of people than what is acknowledged in Europe. Also, whereas the terms "White American" and "Caucasian American" carry somewhat ambiguous definitions, depending on the speaker, European American has a more specific definition and scope. According to sociologist Rosanne Skirble, the term "European American" has increased a little in use; especially among scholars, but "White American", "Caucasian American", and "Anglo" continue to be generally preferred, depending on the descent of the given individual(s) or group to which the term refers.


The term was coined by some to emphasize the European cultural and geographical ancestral origins of Americans in the same way that is done for African Americans and Asian Americans. A European American awareness is still notable because 90% of the respondents classified as white on the U.S. Census knew their European ancestry. Historically, the concept of an American was conceived in the U.S. as a person of European ancestry to the exclusion of African Americans and Native Americans. As a linguistic concern, the term is often meant to discourage a dichotomous view of the racial landscape between the normative white category and everyone else. Margo Adair suggests that the recognition of specific European American ancestries allows certain Americans to become aware that they come from a variety of different cultures.


European Americans are largely descended from colonial American stock supplemented by two sizable waves of immigration from Europe. Approximately 53 percent of European Americans today are of colonial ancestry, and 47 percent are descended from European or Canadian immigrants who have come to the U.S. since 1790. Today, each of the three different branches of immigrants are most common in different parts of the country. Colonial stock, which is comprised mostly of people of English, Irish, Welsh, and Scottish descent, may be found throughout the country but is especially dominant in the South. Some people of colonial stock, especially in the Mid-Atlantic states, are also descendants of German and Dutch immigrants. The vast majority of these are Protestants and Roman Catholics. French descent, which can also be found throughout the country, is most concentrated in Louisianamarker, while Spanish descent is dominant in the Southwest. These are primarily Roman Catholic and were assimilated with the Louisiana Purchase and the aftermath of the Mexican-American War, respectively. The first large wave of European migration after the Revolutionary War came from Northern and Western Europe between about 1820 and 1890. Most of these were from Irelandmarker, Germanymarker, Britainmarker, Netherlandsmarker, and Scandinavia, and with large numbers of Irish and German Catholics immigrating, Roman Catholicism became an important minority religion. Their descendants are dominant in the Midwest and West, although German descent is extremely common in Pennsylvania, and Irish descent is also common in urban centers in the Northeast. The second wave of European Americans arrived from the mid-1870s to the 1920s, mainly from Southern and Eastern Europe. This wave included Italiansmarker, Greeks, Poles and other Slavs, Portuguese, and Eastern European Jews from Polandmarker and Russiamarker, boosting the Catholic population further and introducing a significant Jewish minority into the country. Their descendants are dominant in the Northeast. With large numbers of immigrants from South and Central America, White Hispanics have increased to 8% of the US population; Texasmarker and Floridamarker are important centers for them.


European American cultural lineage can be traced back to Europe and is institutionalized in the form of its government, traditions, and civic education. The Solutrean hypothesis suggested that Europeans may have been among the first in the Americas. More recent research has argued this not to be the case and that the founding Native American population came from Siberia through Beringia. An article in the American Journal of Human Genetics states "Here we show, by using 86 complete mitochondrial genomes, that all Native American haplogroups, including haplogroup X, were part of a single founding population, thereby refuting multiple-migration models." Since most later European Americans have assimilated into American culture, most European Americans now generally express their individual ethnic ties sporadically and symbolically and do not consider their specific ethnic origins to be essential to their identity; however, European American ethnic expression has been revived since the 1960s. Southern Europeans, specifically Italians and Greeks, have maintained high levels of ethnic identity. This is also true of the Irish. In the 1960s, Mexican Americans and African Americans started exploring their cultural traditions as the ideal of cultural pluralism took hold. European Americans followed suit by exploring their individual cultural origins and having less shame of expressing their unique cultural heritage.


Americans reported as white 1790-2000
Year Population % of the U.Smarker Year Population % of the U.Smarker
1790 3,172,006 80.7 1900 66,809,196 87.9
1800 4,306,446 81.1 1910 81,731,957 88.9
1810 5,862,073 81.0 1920 94,820,915 89.7
1820 7,866,797 81.6 1930 110,286,740 89.8 (highest)
1830 10,532,060 81.9 1940 118,214,870 89.8 (highest)
1840 14,189,705 83.2 1950 134,942,028 89.5
1850 19,553,068 84.3 1960 158,831,732 88.6
1860 26,922,537 85.6 1970 177,748,975 87.5
1870 33,589,377 87.1 1980 188,371,622 83.1
1880 43,402,970 86.5 1990 199,686,070 80.3
1890 55,101,258 87.5 2000 211,460,626 75.1 (lowest)
* vast majority of white Americans are of European ancestry. * The original peoples
of North Africa, & Middle East today only constituted 0.6% of the "white"
population (2000).

* In 1923, the courts deemed Indians to not be white and be
Asian which has continued to the present for the purposes of law.

Indian Am.

The numbers below give numbers of European Americans as measured by the U.S. Census in 1980, 1990, and 2000. The numbers are measured according to declarations in census responses. This leads to uncertainty over the real meaning of the figures: For instance, as can be seen, according to these figures, the European American population dropped 40 million in ten years, but in fact this is a reflection of changing census responses. In particular, it reflects the increased popularity of the 'American' option following its inclusion as an example in the 2000 census forms.

It is important to note that breakdowns of the European American population into sub-components is a difficult and rather arbitrary exercise. Farley (1991) argues that "because of ethnic intermarriage, the numerous generations that separate respondents from their forbears and the apparent unimportance to many whites of European origin, responses appear quite inconsistent". In particular, a large majority of European Americans have ancestry from a number of different countries and the response to a single 'ancestry' gives little indication of the backgrounds of Americans today. When only prompted for a single response, the examples given on the census forms and a pride in identifying the more distinctive parts of one's heritage are important factors; these will likely adversely affect the numbers reporting ancestries from the British Isles. Multiple response ancestry data often greatly increase the numbers reporting for the main ancestry groups, although Farley goes as far to conclude that "no simple question will distinguish those who identify strongly with a specific European group from those who report symbolic or imagined ethnicity." He highlights responses in the Current Population Survey (1973) where for the main 'old' ancestry groups (e.g., German, Irish, English, and French), over 40% change their reported ancestry over the six-month period between survey waves (page 422).

An important example to note is that in 1980 23.75 million Americans claimed English ancestry and 25.85 claimed English ancestry together with one or more other. This represents 49.6 million people. The table below shows that in 1990 when only single and primary responses were allowed this fell to 32 million and in 2000 to 24 million.

The largest ancestries in 2000, reporting over 5 million members, were in order: German, Irish, English, American, Italian, Polish, and French. They have different distributions within the United States; in general, the northern half of the United States from Pennsylvaniamarker westward is dominated by German ancestry, and the southern half by English and American. Irish may be found throughout the entire country. Italian ancestry is most common in the Northeast, Polish in the Great Lakes Region, and French in New Englandmarker and Louisianamarker. U.S. Census Bureau statisticians estimate that today, approximately 63 percent of white Americans are either wholly or partly of British Isles descent.

European Ancestries in the United States

European American Ancestries in the 2000 U.S. Census
Ancestry 1980 % of U.S.
1990 % of U.S.
2000 % of U.S.

Albanian 28,658 0.02% ? ? 113,661 ? ?
American (see notes) no data no data 12,396,000 5.0% 20,625,093 7.3% +63%
Austrian 948,558 0.50% 864,783 0.3% 730,336 0.3% -15.5%
Basque 43,140 0.02% 47,956 0.02% 57,793 0.02% +20.5%
Belgian 360,227 0.19% 380,403 0.2% 384,531 0.1% +01.1%
British ? ? 1,119,140 0.4% 1,085,718 0.4% -03.0%
Bulgarian 42,504 0.02% ? ? ? ? ?
Croatian 252,970 0.13% 544,270 0.2% 374,241 0.1% -31.2%
Czech 1,892,456 1.01% 1,296,369 0.5% 1,258,452 0.4% -02.9%
Danish 1,518,273 0.81% 1,634,648 0.7% 1,430,897 0.5% -12.5%
Dutch 6,304,499 3.35% 6,226,339 2.5% 4,541,770 1.6% -27.1%
English 49,598,035 26.34% 32,651,788 13.1% 24,509,692 8.7% -24.9%
Estonian 25,994 0.01% 26,762 0.01% 25,034 0.01% -06.5%
Finnish 615,872 0.33% 658,854 0.3% 623,559 0.2% -05.4%
French 12,892,246 6.85% 10,320,656 4.1% 8,309,666 3% -19.5%
German 49,224,146 26.14% 57,947,171 23.3% 42,841,569 15.2% -26.1%
Greek 959,856 0.51% 1,110,292 0.4% 1,152,956 0.4% +03.8%
Hungarian 1,776,902 0.02% ? ? 1,398,724 ? ?
Icelandic 32,586 0.02% 40,529 0.0% 42,716 ? ?
Irish 40,165,702 21.33% 38,735,539 15.6% 30,524,799 10.8% -21.2%
Italian 12,183,692 6.47% 14,664,189 5.9% 15,638,348 5.6% +06.6%
Latvian 92,141 0.05% ? ? 87,564 ? ?
Lithuanian 742,776 0.39% 811,865 0.3% 659,892 0.2% -18.7%
Maltese ?? 30,292 ? 40,159 0.0% ?
Norwegian 3,435,839 1.83% 3,869,395 1.6% 4,477,725 1.6% +15.7%
Polish 8,228,037 4.37% 9,366,051 3.8% 8,977,235 3.2% -04.2%
Portuguese 1,024,351 0.54% 1,148,857 0.5% 1,173,691 0.4% +02.2%
Romanian 315,258 0.17% 365,310 0.1% 368,729 0.1% +17.61%
Russian 2,781,432 1.48% 2,951,373 1.2% 2,652,214 0.9% -10.1%
Scots-Irish 16,418 0.01% 5,617,773 2.3% 4,319,232 1.5% -23.1%
Scottish 10,048,816 5.34% 5,393,581 2.2% 4,890,581 1.7% -09.3%
Serbian 100,941 0.05% 116,795 negligible 140,337 0.1% +20.2%
Slovak 776,806 0.41% 1,882,897 0.8% 797,764 0.3% -57.6%
Slovene 126,463 0.07% 124,437 0.1% 176,691 0.1% +42%
Spanish 2,781,208 1.48% 2,384,862 0.9% 2,487,092 0.9% +04.3%
Swedish 4,345,392 2.31% 4,680,863 1.9% 3,998,310 1.4% -14.6%
Swiss 981,543 0.52% 1,045,482 0.4% 911,502 0.3% -12.8%
Ukrainian 730,056 0.39% 740,723 0.3% 892,922 0.3% +20.5%
Welsh 1,664,598 0.88% 2,033,893 0.8% 1,753,794 0.6% -13.8%
Total 150,227,658 79.78% 210,181,975 84.2% 171,801,940 60.7% -18.3%


  • The 1980 census had 188,302,438 people report at least one specific ancestry out of the then total 226,545,805 United Statesmarker population. Numbers and percents by ancestry group do not add to totals because persons reporting a multiple ancestry are included in more than one group. Responses of total were: Single ancestry 63% and Multiple ancestry 37%. See 1980 U.S. Census for details.

  • "American ethnicity" - (1990 Census) 12,395,999 (5.0%).

  • "American ethnicity" - ((2000 Census), 20,625,093 or (7.3%) of the total U.S. population) - Mostly of English, Irish, Welsh, or Scottish ancestry that they cannot trace. Two-thirds of white Americans have two or more different European nationalities, often four or more, none of which the person thinks are large enough to identify with (one typical example might be a person who is 1/4 Irish, 1/4 German, 1/4 Scottish, 1/8 Swedish, and 1/8 French).

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