« ZurückWeiter »
SOME ASPECTS OF THE IMMIGRATION PROBLEM.
URING the fiscal year ending June 30, 1903, the volume of
immigration broke all previous records, 857,046 immigrants arriving in the United States. This fact has quickened the interest in the immigration problem and has made the desirability of restrictive measures again a question of the hour. Popular interest in the question rises and wanes with every rise and ebb of the tide of immigration; and the volume of immigration is subject to marked fluctuations, as may best be shown by a study of the figures from year to year. Without reproducing all of the facts, either in tabular or graphic form,' we may roughly describe the movement. In 1842, the number of immigrants first passed the mark of 100,000 (104,565). It then increased until in 1854 it was 427,833. Dropping suddenly in the following year, it continued to diminish gradually until in 1862 it was only 72,183. With the close of the Civil War it rose considerably until in 1873, with 459,803, it exceeded the former maximum. A sharp decline followed, reaching the lowest point in 1878 — 138,469. In 1882, however, the extraordinary figure of 788,992 was reached, but the number sank again to 334,203 in 1886. From this there was some recovery, noticeably in 1888 and 1891, the latter year showing 560,319. The number then sank to 229,299 in 1898, followed by the present upward movement, culminating in the figures already cited for the year 1903.
This fluctuation seems to explain our failure to adopt drastic restrictive measures. After every notable increase in the number of immigrants such measures have been proposed; but reluctance to break with what are held to be time-honored traditions has in each instance delayed legislation until, with a decreasing number
See the tables and charts in the Report of the Commissioner General of Immigration for the fiscal years ending June 30, 1902 and 1903.
? The years here referred to are fiscal years, as they appear in the familiar tables. In 1842 the year ended December 31. Beginning with 1844 it ended September 30, while with 1858 the present system of fiscal years ending June 30 begins. In the text the fractional parts of years in which the changes were made have been disregarded.
of immigrants, the necessity for it has seemed to disappear. The question presents itself not so much as a cure of present evils, but as a prevention of future ills; and as the prospect of future embarrassments seems to diminish, the question loses its interest.
Whether the present swelling tide of immigration will continue long enough for the advocates of restriction to win the day, or whether it will soon reach its culmination and public interest will again lapse, no one can foretell. But the moment is opportune for a discussion of any aspects of immigration that may throw light upon the question whether restrictive measures are of vital interest to the welfare of the nation.
Those who advocate greater restriction than has as yet been imposed by the laws of the United States, justify their proposals by pointing out that immigration is not only increasing in quantity but deteriorating in quality. Not only do we add an increasing number of foreigners to our population, but these additions are on the whole less desirable than those of former years. The two propositions may be separately considered.
In the face of the familiar figures it may seem preposterous to question that the additions to our population are greater than formerly. Yet any record for a half a century which ignores the country's growth is at best only a partial presentation of the facts. No one will be disposed to affirm that the immigration of 310,004 persons in 1850 was of no greater consequence than the immigration of 311,715 persons in 1899. It is desirable therefore, to compare the immigration into the United States with the population, as in the following table:
1821-1830 1831-1840 1841-1850 1851-1860 1861-1870 1871-1880 1881-1890 1891-1900
9,633,822 12,866,020 17,069,453 23,191,876 31,443,321 38,558,371 50,155,783 62,622,250
599,125 1,713,251 2,598,224 2,314,824 2,812,191 5,246,613 3,687,564
15 47 100 IIO 73 73 104 59
To establish a numerical relation with the population, the final column presents the number of immigrants per 1,000 population at the beginning of each decade. The absolute figures show little change in the period 1851-80, but the figures for the following ten years are nearly double those of any previous decade. Despite this great increase in 1881-90, the relative immigration, calculated as indicated, is not so high as in the decade 1851-60, and is but slightly superior to that in 1841-50. Our table of necessity stops with the decade 1891-1900, when there was some falling off in the number of immigrants, and consequently a marked decline in their relative number. But we are confronted by the maximum immigration of our history in the year 1903, and it may well be that the present decade will tell another story. It may, however, be pointed out that, as the United States had, in 1900, a population of 76,303,387 persons, an immigration in the ten years 1901–1910 that should be relatively equal to that of the maximum period 1851-60 would imply a total immigration of 8,393,362 persons, which would require for the remainder of the decade 1901-1910 an average of 914,236, a figure higher than has yet been reached in any year. Past experience, which teaches us that immigration moves in waves, makes it improbable that such a figure as this will be attained.
This line of reasoning implies that each immigrant counted by the authorities is an addition to our population. Is this the case? If not, what contribution to our population does immigration actually make? Does this contribution hold the same proportion to the total number of immigrants to-day as formerly? The answers to these questions should throw some light upon the proposition commonly advanced by the advocates of restrictive measures, that immigration is adding an increasing number of foreign elements to our population.
Between 1890 and 1900 the foreign born in the United States increased from 9,308,104 to 10,460,085, or by 1,151,981, while in the same period the number of immigrants was 3,687,564. It should be remembered, moreover, that the foreign born include. two nationalities, Canadian and Mexican, not enumerated in the immigration returns. Deducting 225,874, the increase of these two nationalities, we find that 3,687,564 immigrants during the
decade produced an increase of only 926,107 in the corresponding foreign born population. This enormous discrepancy stands in need of explanation. No complete explanation which shall account definitely for every one of these immigrants can be given, but many factors in the case can be approximately estimated.
The first consideration which suggests itself is the loss by death not only among the immigrants, but among the foreignborn population. The surviving immigrants in the year 1900 must replace in the census enumeration some of the foreign born enumerated in 1890 who had died before the following enumeration in 1900. On this point the census of 1900 gives some testimony, since we learn that, among the foreign born then enumerated, 2,609,173 had arrived after 1890. This puts the problem more definitely. 3,687,564 immigrants arriving in the decade 1891-1900, plus an undetermined number of Canadians and Mexicans arriving in the same period, were represented at the close of the decade by 2,609,173 persons.
Details are not available to show how many of the latter were Canadians and Mexicans. In the aggregate, the number of new arrivals accounted for by the census is somewhat more than double the increase of the foreign born; it is, therefore, safe to assume that of the 2,609,173 new arrivals, at least 450,000 belonged to these nationalities. Having introduced an estimate in our calculation, we may abandon precise figures which would be misleading. Our immigrants of 1891-1900 are represented in 1900 by approximately 2,160,000 persons, and our problem is to account for the 1,530,000 immigrants who have apparently disappeared.
We have as yet made no allowance for the mortality of the immigrants themselves, nor have we exact data upon which to make such an estimate. The death rate among the foreign born in Massachusetts is on the average about 17 per thousand. As the foreign born contain a larger percentage of aged persons than the immigrants, it is probably safe to assume for the latter a death rate of about 15 per thousand. Disregarding fractions of years, the contingent arriving in 1891 had been in the United States, in 1900, nine complete years, and each subsequent contingent, up to the tenth, one less number of years. The tenth contingent, with a residence of less than one year, may be disregarded. In estimating the survivors in 1900, the correct method, if the supposed death rate of 15 per thousand is assumed to persist, would be to take the contingent of 1891, for example, calculate the deaths for the first year, then those of the survivors in the second year and so on until 1900 was reached. This method would give us 71,452 deaths and 488,867 survivors. If, on the other hand, we assume in each year the same number of deaths as in the first, 8,405, and multiply by nine, we obtain 75,645 deaths and 484,674 survivors. Of course this more summary method implies an increasing death rate. In the illustration, it rises from 15 per thousand in the first to 17 per thousand in the ninth year.
Since with the advancing age of the population such an increasing death rate is to be expected rather than a stationary rate, we may adopt the more summary method in calculating the survivors in 1900 of the immigrants of the nine years 1891-1899. Making our calculation for each year's immigrants on this basis, we find the probable number of deaths to be 268,015.
But as we were searching for 1,530,000 immigrants who had apparently disappeared, we have still to account for 1,260,000 persons recorded in the immigration statistics. This remainder probably consists of two classes: first, persons who had been in the United States before, who had visited their old homes and who then returned to the United States; second, persons who came to the United States as immigrants and who departed from the United States before the census enumeration. Among the first class of persons are doubtless many who first arrived in the United States before 1890, and who therefore figure in the census enumeration at the date of first arrival, while they figure as arrivals in the immigration figures of the decade 1891-1900. Others arrived after 1890, went back to Europe, and returned to the United States again before the enumeration of 1900. Such persons figure in the census enumeration but once, while in the immigration figures they appear twice or even more frequently. This fact is of more importance than is generally recognized. At the port of New York, where the great majority of the immigrants land, a record was made in 1896 of the number who had been previously in the United States; and, beginning with the