6.7H: Effects of Migration

team (2)

AP Theme

Social Interactions and Organization

Learning Objective 6H

Explain how and why new patterns of migration affected society from 1750 to 1900.

Historical Development 1

Migrants tended to be male, leaving women to take on new roles in the home society that had been formerly occupied by men.

Historical Development 2

Migrants often created ethnic enclaves in different parts of the world that helped transplant their culture into new environments.

Historical Development 3

Receiving societies did not always embrace immigrants, as seen in the various degrees of ethnic and racial prejudice and the ways states attempted to regulate the increased flow of people across their borders.


Increased Migration Impacted Gender Roles

Much of the non-European migration during the 19th century were single men working in mining operations or cash-crop agriculture. Asian and African women often remained behind in their native villages.

Changing roles for African women

In Southern Africa, 40 to 50 percent of men migrated for work. This migration of men affected gender relationships that had remained stable for centuries. Changes led to women taking on traditional male social roles. 

Major Migrations

Communities from across Afro-Eurasia migrated for economic opportunity. These emigrations spread migrants across Africa, Asia, and the Americas.  

The Chinese in Southeast Asia

Early Chinese immigration into Southeast Asia began in the 13th century as Buddhist monks and merchants arrived. Most Chinese migration into Southeast Asia began in the mid 19th century after China’s loss in the Opium Wars, the opening of treaty ports to European powers, and the Chinese government’s easing of restrictions of Chinese emigration.

  • Areas of major Chinese migration included Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia. 
  • While most Chinese initially arrived as cheap foreign labor, often under indenture contracts, the Chinese community soon began to thrive.
  • Many Chinese became traders and moneylenders. Chinese communities in Southeast Asia are less integrated than other Chinese diaspora communities in other nations.
  • The Chinese built strong communities in the areas where they settled. These strong communities persist today. Chinese often attend their own schools, read their own newspapers, and use Chinese-run banks.
  • Popular customs brought with Chinese included their blended Buddhist, Taoist, and Confucian practices. 

The Chinese in the Caribbean and South America

Many Chinese migrants migrated to the Caribbean and northern South American coast. Most migrated to Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, French Guiana, and Belize.

  • Like in Southeast Asia, Chinese immigrants brought Buddhism with them; though, many immigrated as Christian converts helped by Christian missionaries.
  • They also brought their social customs. Double Ten Day, which celebrates the overthrow of the Qing dynasty and the establishment of the Chinese Republic, is celebrated in Jamaica.
  • Chinese cuisine has also influenced the development of Caribbean and Latin cuisines. When the Chinese first arrived, they often lived in their own communities where they grew their own agriculture that fit their tastes and cooking styles.

The Chinese in America

Most Chinese arrived in the continental United States along the western coast. Significant Chinese American communities arose in San Francisco and Los Angeles in California.

  • Unlike European migrants who arrived in America, Chinese born in China could never become citizens. Their community experienced intense racism, which prevented the assimilation of Chinese communities into mainstream American culture.
  • Discrimination led to close-knit Chinese communities and associations that protected and defended Chinese interests. The largest of the organizations was the Chinese Benevolent Association, formed in 1882.
  • Chinese communities helped build the American Trans-Continental Railroad. They also worked in mines that produced much of America’s gold during the California gold rush.
  • Chinese communities brought their native values, especially the Confucian value of respect for elders and the importance of family.

The Irish in North America

By 1930 over 4.5 million Irish had immigrated to America. Like other immigrant groups, they established communities all over the United States. Many Irish went west during America’s westward expansion. Many Irish immigrated during the Irish Potato Famine.

  • According to the U.S. census bureau, in 2017, nearly 33 million Americans (10.1% of the total population) identified as having Irish ancestry.
  • Irish cultural traditions diffused from early Irish enclaves have shaped modern America. Irish neighborhoods were the first areas in the United States where people widely practiced Catholic Christianity Catholic numbers in the United States continued to grow after Italian migrants began arriving in large numbers later in the 19th century.
  • The most recognizable Irish festival in America is Saint Patrick’s Day which celebrates the arrival of Christianity into Ireland–although the modern festival in no way resembles its traditional roots.
  • Irish Pub culture has also become an essential component of Americans’ relaxation across the United States.

The Italian in North America

By 1924 more than 4 million Italians had migrated to North America. Close-knit Italian communities sprang up all over the United States in urban and rural locations. One of the largest communities was in New York City, where many Italian immigrants entered through the port at Ellis Island.

  • Many neighborhoods in New York became culturally Italian.
  • Regardless of where Italian migrants settled, Italian culture flourished within Italian enclaves. Italian theater, music, food, and festivals all took root and have become part of mainstream American culture.

The Italians in South America

Millions of Italians immigrated to South America. The highest number migrated to Brazil and Argentina. The Italian language brought by immigrants influenced Brazilian Portuguese and Argentine Spanish. Modern Brazilian and Argentine cuisine was also heavily by Italian cuisine.

  • While Argentina has many local and regional flavors, Italian dominates as the most popular daily food choice. Argentine pizza closely resembles Italian pizza, and Argentinians eat Italian gnocchi on the 29th of every month.

Migrant Ethnic Enclaves

When migrants moved to new areas, they created ethnic enclaves as members or similar communities clustered into specific regions inside and outside urban areas. Entire areas became known for the immigrants that lived within them. The creation of these ethnic zones was organic (natural) as members of various immigrant communities gathered near their culture brethren (family).

  • These demographic patterns developed as immigrants sought help from and wanted to live by those who spoke their language, understood their cultural habits, and had shared a similar journey.
  • These social connections helped migrants secure housing upon arrival, find employment, and build a sense of shared community.
  • New immigrants often experienced intense discrimination. As a result, they often lived near other members of their immigrant communities, which provided safe spaces to build a new life in their new homelands.

Significant ethnic enclaves 

The ethnic enclaves that migrants established persist in many cities today. Initially, these neighborhoods functioned as residential and commercial districts where migrants could live around those from their own cultures and find familiar foods and products from back home. In the segregated 19th and early 20th centuries, these neighborhoods were ethnic refuges where outsiders rarely ventured.

  • Chinatown, New York
  • Little India, Singapore
  • Little Italy, New York City
  • Japan town, Sao Paulo, Brazil

Immigration Restrictions

While many places were initially welcoming, often reluctantly, to different waves of immigrant groups for their labor and the benefits they could provide, as time progressed, many societies, especially western and industrialized nations, began to pass immigration restrictions. These restrictions limited or stopped migration from specific locations. These restrictions were usually proceeded by racist media articles and political speeches that scapegoated immigrants for social problems.

Selected immigration restrictions

The United States Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882

This law banned nearly all immigrants from China.

Australian Chinese Immigrant Restrict Act of 1901

This act put a $10 tax on all Chinese residents. It also limited the number of Chinese persons brought into the country on ships by limiting the weight that Chinese passengers could take on total ships weights as they entered Australian ports.

The British Aliens Act of 1905

This law sought to limit the immigration of poor Europeans from Eastern Europe, especially Jewish migrants.

The United States Immigration Act of 1924

This immigration act placed quotes on the entry of immigrants into the United States. The government limited immigrant entries to two percent of the total number of immigrants living in the United States as of the 1890 census. The act also stopped immigration from most Asian countries completely, except the American colony of the Philippines.