Throughout the history of the United States, the growth of large cities has been fueled by international immigration. Since 2010, nearly a third of the net 7.7 million Americans who have immigrated to America have settled in just five metro areas.
Large U.S. cities have a number of pull factors that attract new immigrants, such as job opportunities, ease of access, and ethnic neighborhoods and enclaves. While large coastal cities — New York, San Francisco, and Miami — have been the main ports of entry during the country’s major immigration waves, there are a number of other U.S. metro areas with highly diverse populations.
To determine America’s melting pot cities, 24/7 Wall St. ranked metro areas based on the likelihood that two residents picked at random would be from two different world regions: the United States, Europe, Asia, Africa, Oceania, Latin America, and other parts of North America.
Before the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965 eliminated immigration quotas based on national origin, there were three main waves of immigration. In the early 19th century, English, Scottish, Dutch, and French immigrants settled throughout the Northeast, seeking religious and political freedom. In the mid-19th century, joblessness, famine, and poverty pushed many German, British, and Irish immigrants across the Atlantic. In the latter half of the century, a large influx of immigrants from Asia settled throughout the West Coast, finding work as miners, farmhands, and railroad laborers.
One major wave of immigration occurred through the Bracero Program, a federal jobs program meant to fill the agricultural labor shortage caused by World War II. Through the program, more than 4.5 million Mexicans entered the United States from 1942 to 1964, settling in border cities. These cities include several on this list, like El Paso, Texas; El Centro, California; and Yuma, Arizona. As hubs for international migration, these cities contribute to larger than typical immigrant populations across the state as a whole. Here is a full list of the states with the largest immigrant populations.
Large immigrant populations do not necessarily mean economic and social conditions are favorable for immigrants. Many of the states with the largest immigrant populations also rank among the worst states for Hispanics and Latinos.