In the immigrant country, people live from all corners of the world. In recent decades, the new residents have mainly come from Latin America and Asia. The immigrant population, which also has high birth rates, is the main reason why the US population is steadily increasing, with around 2.5 million residents a year.
After a long period of rising immigration to the United States, immigration stopped and was relatively low between 1930 and 1970. Thereafter, it gained momentum and the proportion of foreign-born people increased from just under 5 percent to 13.5 percent between 1970 and 2015. Up to the 1960s, the vast majority of immigrants still came from Europe. A change in the law in 1965 opened for increased immigration from non-European countries.
- COUNTRYAAH.COM: Key populations estimated size and data of United States, including population density of how many people per square mile. Also included are facts for population and language.
The increase has been particularly pronounced in the states of the western and southern US. However, the pace has slowed down during the 2010s. More people have returned to Mexico in recent years than the other way around. The reason is partly the aftermath of the financial crisis that broke out in 2008 and partly stricter immigration laws. Since 2013, more people come from India and China than from Mexico. However, the Mexicans still make up the by far the largest immigrant group.
Following the terrorist attacks against the United States in September 2001, stricter control and surveillance of foreigners was introduced. Among other things, immigrants (who have not become citizens) from some 20 countries, mainly in the Middle East, were forced to register with the immigration authority. A fence with electronic surveillance was erected along the border with Mexico and the number of border police increased. During Barack Obama’s presidency (2009–2017), approximately 3 million immigrants were deported, mainly people who committed crimes in the United States.
Following Donald Trump’s entry, the tone has sharpened. He has acted to block residents from a number of Muslim countries and to expel paperless immigrants. More and more people without a residence permit are arrested and detained, sometimes for a long time, while their cases are being processed in courts. In May 2019, 52,000 paperless migrants were held in detention or regular prisons, which was the highest figure to date.
One of Trump’s most important election promises was to build a wall against Mexico, at the expense of Mexicans. According to Trump, the paperless migrants pose a major security risk. At the same time, the number of people illegally located in the United States has fallen from a peak of 12.2 million in 2007 to 10.7 million at the end of 2018, the lowest figure since 2004. During Trump’s first year as president, the number of migrants crossing the border from Mexico the lowest since 1971.
Thereafter, the pressure against the border increased again. It culminated in May 2019 when 144,000 people were taken into custody at the border – the highest figure since 2006 (see further Calendar). Then it slowed down again, as a result of increasingly stricter measures, and in September the number of people stopped or arrested was down to 52,000.
Most of those who come are Central Americans – from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras – who flee violence and poverty. In the past, the majority of those who came were adult men looking for work, while today it is often about families with children or unaccompanied children. A majority of migrants who reach the border are seeking asylum rather than trying to forge into the United States. Then the authorities can not just send them back directly.
About half of the paperless living in the United States are from Mexico. A large proportion of them have different low status jobs, for example in agriculture. The approach to the paperless goes apart: many liberals believe that there must be a way for the paperless to get a residence permit and citizenship while conservative groups want to stop illegal immigration. Under Obama, a program was introduced under which paperless young people who came to the United States as children, together with parents who immigrated illegally, were given the opportunity to apply for a residence permit. However, an attempt to expand the program was stopped in court in 2016 and in the fall of 2017, Trump decided to scrap the program called Daca (see Calendar). However, the Democrats are trying to bring about an extension and negotiations are ongoing on the issue.
The number of refugees received by the United States is low in relation to the size of the population. However, for many years until 2017, the country received more quota refugees – usually from refugee camps around the world – than any other country. The number of quota refugees averaged 67,000 a year between 2008 and 2017. When Donald Trump took office as president, the number fell immediately. In 2019, 30,000 quota refugees arrived and the ceiling was lowered to 18,000 the following year. Of the asylum seekers – who themselves have come to the United States – in 2017, 26,500 people were granted the right to stay in the United States.
Whites constitute a majority in the United States and, in the context of census, include persons originating in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. Hispanics / Latinos (mainly Latin Americans) in the early 2000s referred to blacks as the country’s largest minority group. In the censuses carried out every ten years, the residents identify themselves as belonging to a “race”. Since 2000, more than one group can be identified. The category hispanics, on the other hand, is referred to as an “ethnicity”, in addition to the other classification. Most Hispanics identify themselves as white. (See also fact box in the margin, with figures from the 2010 census.)
When the European colonizers arrived in the 16th century, there was a significant indigenous population that came to be called Indians (now usually American Indians or Native Americans). Since then, they have been pushed away and reduced in number. Indigenous peoples, including those in Alaska, amount to close to 3 million residents (or just over 5 million if you include those who identify with several peoples). More than one fifth live in one of over 300 reserves. There are also half a million urinals in Hawaii and other Pacific islands.
English is spoken by most people in the United States. American English differs somewhat from British English in terms of vocabulary, pronunciation and spelling, but the differences are so small that they can be compared to the differences between two dialects. Due to the extensive immigration, a large number of languages are represented in the country. Spanish is the second largest language and first language for over 40 million residents. Its rapid spread has led to demands in some states that English should be chosen as the official language of the United States.
FACTS – POPULATION AND LANGUAGE
whites 72%, blacks 13%, Asians 5%, Native Americans and indigenous peoples in Alaska and Hawaii about 1%, the other 9% (including people who specify more than one population group); 16% state that they are of Latin American descent (so-called Hispanics) (census 2010)
Number of residents
325 719 178 (2017)
Number of residents per square kilometer
Percentage of residents in the cities
82.1 percent (2017)
Nativity / birth
12.4 per 1000 residents (2016)
Mortality / mortality
8.4 per 1000 residents (2016)
0.7 percent (2017)
1.8 number of births per woman (2016)
Percentage of women
50.5 percent (2017)
79 years (2016)
Life expectancy for women
81 years (2016)
Life expectancy for men
76 years (2016)
- several immigrant languages of which Spanish is the largest
Death shootings at a school in Connecticut
A 20-year-old man shoots 26 people to death at Sandy Hook School in Newtown, Connecticut. Of the victims, 20 are children, six and seven years old. It is the worst mass murder to date in a school and raises particular consternation because it affects so young children. The perpetrator who has murdered his own mother before the school shooting kills him. The mass murder raises new demands from many quarters to tighten gun laws in the country. The gun lobby NRA instead requires that armed guards be stationed at all schools in the country.
Support in Puerto Rico to become a state
When a fourth referendum is held on Puerto Rico’s political status, for the first time, a majority votes for the territory to become a state in the United States. In a two-stage rocket, first 54 percent of Puerto Ricans answer no to the question of whether the territory should retain its current status, and then 62 percent answer yes to the state option (the other alternatives are independent state or sovereign nation in free association with the United States). However, because of half a million blank votes, Congress in Washington chooses not to raise the issue. Earlier referendums on the issue were held in 1967, 1993 and 1998.
In the presidential election, Barack Obama wins by about 51 percent of the vote, against about 47 percent of Mitt Romney. Obama gets 332 electoral votes compared to Romney’s 206. While Romney won in traditional Republican strongholds as well as in the states of North Carolina and Indiana, where Obama triumphed in the last election, Obama managed to take home several wave captains, including Ohio, which gave him the victory. In the congressional elections, Republicans lose some in the House of Representatives but retain their majority with 234 seats against 201 for the Democrats. In the Senate, the Democrats win two extra seats and now have 53 to 45 for the Republicans. Two independent senators are also included in the Democrats’ camp.
Hurricane strikes east coast
When Hurricane Sandy reaches the US east coast, Obama and Romney temporarily suspend their election campaigns. Sandy causes severe flooding and material damage for an estimated $ 50 billion. At least 90 people are killed and electricity outages affect more than eight million people.
The last election debate
President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger Mitt Romney meet in the last of three televised debates before the election. This time, foreign policy is in focus. In the first debate at the beginning of the month, Romney is considered to have made the best of himself, while Obama gets better ratings after the next two.
Deadly attack on consulate in Libya
The US ambassador and three more Americans are killed in an attack on the US consulate in the city of Benghazi, Libya.
The Democrats are holding a convention
Democrats are holding their party convention ahead of the presidential election in Charlotte, North Carolina. At the convention, both President’s wife Michelle Obama and former President Bill Clinton speak in support of Barack Obama.
Romney becomes presidential candidate
At the Republican Convention in Tampa, Florida, Mitt Romney formally becomes the party’s candidate in the November presidential election. The convention is slightly postponed due to Hurricane Isaac’s progress along the US coastline. Romney’s speech when he accepts the nomination gives a clear indication that the economy and unemployment will dominate the electoral debate. Earlier this month, Romney has appointed Paul Ryan as its vice presidential candidate. Ryan has long experience as a Republican congressman for Wisconsin and stands for traditional conservative values.
2,000 dead in Afghanistan
The Department of Defense reports that 2,000 US military lost their lives during the war in Afghanistan.
HD approves health insurance reform
The Supreme Court approves Obama’s health insurance reform (see March 2010). With five votes against four, the Supreme Court ruled that the reform does not conflict with the US Constitution. The verdict is seen as a historic event and a very important political success for Obama. One setback for Obama, however, is that the federal government cannot force the states to accept the Medicaid expansion included in the reform.
Paperless young people stay
President Obama decides not to expel hundreds of thousands of young people who have come to the United States as children, with parents who have taken the country illegally. The new rule, which Obama could pass without addressing the issue in Congress, gives young immigrants who have been in the country illegally the right to get a work permit and the opportunity to take a driver’s license. The program is called Daca (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals).
Romney ready as presidential candidate
After another couple of primary elections, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney has secured the 1,144 delegates to the party convention required to become the Republican candidate in the presidential election. New Gingrich stepped down in early May while Ron Paul formally remained as a challenger.
Yes to gay marriage
President Barack Obama, who recently launched his reelection campaign, says in an official statement that he supports gay rights. This is the first time an American president has openly supported his same-sex marriage and the message evokes strong feelings. While the gay movement rejoices, many are upset in conservative and religious circles. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney announces he is in the negative.
Santorum gives up
Rick Santorum is withdrawing from the Republican nomination race over who will be the presidential candidate. He has won in eleven states but now resigns with reference to a daughter getting sick. Mitt Romney thus seems to have secured the nomination even though both Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich are still in the fight.
Romney pulls away in the primary
Mitt Romney, who has already won the victory in seven primary elections, seems to secure his nomination as Republican presidential candidate when he wins in another six states during so-called Super Tuesday. Rick Santorum, who has won three states before, wins in three more, while the former Speaker of the House of Representatives Newt Gingrich takes home a state (see also January 4, 2012).
The shooting of a black teenager provokes protests
An unarmed black 17-year-old, Trayvon Martin, is shot to death by a neighborhood watchman in a Florida residential area. The guard, George Zimmerman, claims he acted in self-defense but the case brings to life the issue of violence against black Americans. An upset debate is underway and extensive protests are taking place around the United States. Zimmerman faces trial for murder but is set free in July 2013. Out of the protests against the verdict, the Black Lives Matter protest movement is born, which is primarily targeting police violence against African Americans.
Obama’s speech to the nation
In his speech, President Obama reiterated the importance of the United States’ richest paying more in taxes to make the country’s economy better for everyone. He also points out that the economic situation has brightened and that the number of new jobs has increased more recently.
Primary elections begin
The primary term for the November presidential election begins. The Democrats essentially endorse President Obama, so the important question is who the Republicans should appoint to challenge him. In the first so-called nomination meeting in Iowa, Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusetts, barely wins over Rick Santorum, former senator for the state of Pennsylvania.
New defense strategy
The Obama administration presents a new strategy for defense policy, focusing more on East Asia and the Pacific, and announcing cuts.