European American
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European American

European Americans
Total population
133 million European-diaspora Americans
41% of total U.S. population (2017)[1][a]
(as opposed to 243,832,540 Americans self-identifying as White or Caucasian[2]
72% of the total U.S. population (2019))
Regions with significant populations
Contiguous United States and Alaska
smaller populations in Hawaii and the territories
Predominantly English
Predominantly Christianity (Mainly Protestantism and Roman Catholicism); Minority religions: Judaism, Islam
European ancestry in the US by county (self-reported)

European Americans (also referred to as Euro-Americans) are Americans of European ancestry.[3][4] This term includes people who are descended from the first European settlers in the United States as well as people who are descended from more recent European arrivals. European Americans are the largest panethnic group in the United States, both historically and at present.

The Spaniards are thought to be the first Europeans to establish a continuous presence in what is now the contiguous United States, with Martín de Argüelles (b. 1566) in St. Augustine, then a part of Spanish Florida,[5][6] and the Russians were the first Europeans to settle in Alaska, establishing Russian America. The first English child born in the Americas was Virginia Dare, born August 18, 1587 (see First white child). She was born in Roanoke Colony, located in present-day North Carolina, which was the first attempt, made by Queen Elizabeth I, to establish a permanent English settlement in North America.

In the 2016 American Community Survey, German Americans (13.0%), Irish Americans (12%), English Americans (9%), Italian Americans (6.0%), and Polish Americans (3%) were the five largest self-reported European ancestry groups in the United States, forming over a third of the total population.[7] However, the English Americans and other British Americans demography is considered to be significantly under-counted, as the people in that demographic tend to identify themselves simply as Americans (20,151,829 or 7.2%).[8][9][10][11] The same applies to Spanish Americans demography, as the people in that demographic tend to identify themselves simply as Hispanic and Latino Americans (58,846,134 or 16.6%), even though they carry a mean of 65.1% European ancestry, mainly from Spain.[12] In the 2000 census over 56 million or 19.9% of the United States population ignored the ancestry question completely and are classified as "unspecified" and "not reported".[13]


Number of European Americans: 1800-2010
Year Population % of the United States Ref(s)
1800 4,306,446 81.1% [14]
1850 19,553,068 84.3% [14]
1900 66,809,196 87.9% [14]
1950 134,942,028 89.5% [14]
2010 223,553,265 72.4% [15]


In 1995, as part of a review of the Office of Management and Budget's Statistical Policy Directive No. 15 (Race and Ethnic Standards for Federal Statistics and Administrative Reporting), a survey was conducted of census recipients to determine their preferred terminology for the racial/ethnic groups defined in the Directive. For the White group, European American came third, preferred by 2.35% of panel interviewees.[16]

The term is sometimes used interchangeably with Caucasian American, White American, and Anglo American in many places around the United States.[17] However, the terms Caucasian and White are purely racial terms, not geographic, and include some populations whose origin is outside of Europe; and Anglo-American also has another definition, meaning, European Americans with English ancestry.


The term is used by some to emphasize the European cultural and geographical ancestral origins of Americans, in the same way as is done for African Americans and Asian Americans. A European American awareness is still notable because 90% of the respondents classified as white in the U.S. Census knew[clarification needed] their European ancestry.[18]

As a linguistic concern, the term is sometimes meant to discourage a dichotomous view of the racial landscape between the white category and everyone else.[19] 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.[20]


There are a number of subgroupings of European Americans.[21] While these categories may be approximately defined, often due to the imprecise or cultural regionalization of Europe, the subgroups are nevertheless used widely in cultural or ethnic identification.[22] This is particularly the case in diasporic populations, as with European people in the United States generally.[23] In alphabetical order, some of the subgroups are:


Historical immigration / est. origins
Country Immigration
before 1790
ancestry: 1790[24]
England* 230,000 1,900,000
Ulster Scotch-Irish* 135,000 320,000
Germany[b] 103,000 280,000
Scotland* 48,500 160,000
Ireland 8,000 200,000
Netherlands 6,000 100,000
Wales* 4,000 120,000
France 3,000 80,000
Sweden and Other[c] 500 20,000
*Totals, British 417,500 2,500,000+
United States United States[d] 950,000 3,929,214
Source:[25](excludes African population.)

Since 1607, some 57 million immigrants have come to the United States from other lands. Approximately 10 million passed through on their way to some other place or returned to their original homelands, leaving a net gain of some 47 million people.[26]

Shifts in European migration

Before 1881, the vast majority of immigrants, almost 86% of the total, arrived from northwest Europe, principally Great Britain, Ireland, Germany, and Scandinavia, known as "Old Immigration". The years between 1881 and 1893 the pattern shifted, in the sources of U.S. "New Immigration". Between 1894 and 1914, immigrants from southern, central, and eastern Europe accounted for 69% of the total.[27][28][29] Prior to 1960, the overwhelming majority came from Europe or of European descent from Canada. The shift in European immigration has been in decline since the mid-20th century, with 75.0% of the total foreign-born population born in Europe compared to 12.1% recorded in the 2010 census.[30]

Immigration since 1820

European immigration to the US 1820-1970
Years Arrivals Years Arrivals Years Arrivals
1820-1830 98,816 1901-1910 8,136,016 1981-1990
1831-1840 495,688 1911-1920 4,376,564 1991-2000
1841-1850 1,597,502 1921-1930 2,477,853
1851-1860 2,452,657 1931-1940 348,289
1861-1870 2,064,407 1941-1950 621,704
1871-1880 2,261,904 1951-1960 1,328,293
1881-1890 4,731,607 1961-1970 1,129,670
1891-1900 3,558,793 1971-1980
Arrivals Total (150 yrs) 35,679,763
Country of origin 1820-1978
Country Arrivals % of total Country Arrivals % of total
Germany1 6,978,000 14.3% Norway 856,000 1.8%
Italy 5,294,000 10.9% France 751,000 1.5%
Great Britain 4,898,000 10.01% Greece 655,000 1.3%
Ireland 4,723,000 9.7% Portugal 446,000 0.9%
Austria-Hungary1, 2 4,315,000 8.9% Denmark 364,000 0.7%
Russia1, 2 3,374,000 6.9% Netherlands 359,000 0.7%
Sweden 1,272,000 2.6% Finland 33,000 0.1%
Total (158 yrs) 34,318,000
Source:[36][37][38] Note: Many returned to their country of origin
European-born population

The figures below show that of the total population of specified birthplace in the United States. A total of 11.1% were born-overseas of the total population.

Population / Proportion
born in Europe in 1850-2016
Year Population % of foreign-born
1850 2,031,867 92.2%
1860 3,807,062 92.1%
1870 4,941,049 88.8%
1880 5,751,823 86.2%
1890 8,030,347 86.9%
1900 8,881,548 86.0%
1910 11,810,115 87.4%
1920 11,916,048 85.7%
1930 11,784,010 83.0%
1960 7,256,311 75.0%
1970 5,740,891 61.7%
1980 5,149,572 39.0%
1990 4,350,403 22.9%
2000 4,915,557 15.8%
2010 4,817,437 12.1%
2016 4,785,267 10.9%
Birthplace Population
in 2010
in 2010
in 2016
in 2016
Totals, European-born 4,817,437 12.0% 4,785,267 10.9%
Northern Europe 923,564 2.3% 950,872 2.2%
United Kingdom 669,794 1.7% 696,896 1.6%
Ireland 124,457 0.3% 125,840 0.3%
Other Northern Europe 129,313 0.3% 128,136 0.3%
Western Europe 961,791 2.4% 939,383 2.1%
Germany 604,616 1.5% 563,985 1.3%
France 147,959 0.4% 175,250 0.4%
Other Western Europe 209,216 0.5% 200,148 0.4%
Southern Europe 779,294 2.0% 760,352 1.7%
Italy 364,972 0.9% 335,763 0.8%
Portugal 189,333 0.5% 176,638 0.4%
Other Southern Europe 224,989 0.6% 247,951 0.5%
Eastern Europe 2,143,055 5.4% 2,122,951 4.9%
Poland 475,503 1.2% 424,928 1.0%
Russia 383,166 1.0% 397,236 0.9%
Other Eastern Europe 1,284,286 3.2% 1,300,787 3.0%
Other Europe (no country specified) 9,733 0.0% 11,709 0.0%
Source: 2010 and 2016[43]


The New York City Metropolitan Area is home to the largest European population in the United States.[44]

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.

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 forebears and the apparent unimportance to many whites of European origin, responses appear quite inconsistent".[45]

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).

The largest self-reported ancestries in 2000, reporting over 5 million members, were in order: German, Irish, English, American, Italian, French, and Polish. They have different distributions within the United States; in general, the northern half of the United States from Pennsylvania 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 the Northeast, and French in New England and Louisiana. U.S. Census Bureau statisticians estimate that approximately 62 percent of European Americans today are either wholly or partly of English, Welsh, Irish, or Scottish ancestry. Approximately 86% of European Americans today are of Northwestern and Central European ancestry, and 14% are of Southern European, Southeastern European, Eastern European, and Euro-Latino descent.

Ancestral origins


American cultural icons, apple pie, baseball, and the American flag. All have European influence primarily from the British.
Mount Rushmore was sculpted by Danish-American Gutzon Borglum. Sculptures of the heads of former U.S. presidents Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt and Lincoln. It has become an iconic symbol of the United States.[52]

As the largest component of the American population, the overall American culture deeply reflects the European-influenced culture that predates the United States of America as an independent state. Much of American culture shows influences from the diverse nations of the United Kingdom and Ireland, such as the English, Irish, Cornish, Manx, Scotch-Irish and Welsh. Colonial ties to Great Britain spread the English language, legal system and other cultural attributes.[4] Scholar David Hackett Fischer asserts in Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America that the folkways of four groups of people who moved from distinct regions of the United Kingdom to the United States persisted and provide a substantial cultural basis for much of the modern United States.[53] Fischer explains "the origins and stability of a social system which for two centuries has remained stubbornly democratic in its politics, capitalist in its economy, libertarian in its laws and individualist in its society and pluralistic in its culture."[54]

Much of the European-American cultural lineage can be traced back to Western and Northern Europe, which is institutionalized in the government, traditions, and civic education in the United States.[55] 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.[18] Some European Americans such as Italians, Greeks, Poles, Germans, Ukrainians, Irish, and others have maintained high levels of ethnic identity. In the 1960s, Mexican Americans, Jewish Americans, and African Americans started exploring their cultural traditions as the ideal of cultural pluralism took hold.[18] European Americans followed suit by exploring their individual cultural origins and having less shame of expressing their unique cultural heritage.[18]


The American legal system also has its roots in French philosophy with the separation of powers and the federal system[56] along with English law in common law.[57] For example, elements of the Magna Carta in it contain provisions on criminal law that were incorporated into the Bill of Rights of the U.S. Constitution. It as well as other documents had elements influencing and incorporated into the United States Constitution.[58]



  • Thanksgiving - In the United States, it has become a national secular holiday (official since 1863) with religious origins. The first Thanksgiving was celebrated by English settlers to give thanks to God and the Native Americans for helping the Pilgrims of Plymouth Colony survive the brutal winter.[63] The modern Thanksgiving holiday traces its origins from a 1621 celebration at the Plymouth Plantation, where the Plymouth settlers held a harvest feast with the Native Americans after a successful growing season. William Bradford is credited as the first to proclaim the American cultural event which is generally referred to as the "First Thanksgiving".


  • Baseball - The earliest recorded game of base-ball involved the family of the Prince of Wales, played indoors in London in November 1748. The Prince is reported as playing "Bass-Ball" again in September 1749 in Walton-on-Thames, Surrey, against Lord Middlesex.[64] English lawyer William Bray recorded a game of baseball on Easter Monday 1755 in Guildford, Surrey; Bray's diary was verified as authentic in September 2008.[65][66] This early form of the game was apparently brought to North America by English immigrants. The first appearance of the term that exists in print was in "A Little Pretty Pocket-Book" in 1744, where it is called Base-Ball.
  • American football - can be traced to modified early versions of rugby football played in England and Canadian football mixed with and ultimately changed by American innovations which led over time to the finished version of the game from 1876 to now. The basic set of rules were first developed in American universities in the mid-19th century.[67]


Another area of cultural influence are American Patriotic songs:

Before 1931, other songs served as the hymns of American officialdom.

Admixture in Non-Hispanic Whites

Some White Americans have varying amounts of American Indian and Sub-Saharan African ancestry. In a recent study, Gonçalves et al. 2007 reported Sub-Saharan and Amerindian mtDna lineages at a frequency of 3.1% (respectively 0.9% and 2.2%) in European Americans, although that frequency may be scattered by region.[72]

DNA analysis on White Americans by geneticist Mark D. Shriver showed an average of 0.7% Sub-Saharan African admixture and 3.2% Native American admixture.[73] The same author, in another study, claimed that about 30% of all White Americans, approximately 66 million people, have a median of 2.3% of Black African admixture.[74] Later, Shriver retracted his statement, saying that actually around 5% of White Americans exhibit some detectable level of African ancestry.[75]

From the 23andMe database, about 5 to at least 13 percent of self-identified White American Southerners have greater than 1 percent African ancestry.[76] Southern states with the highest African American populations, tended to have the highest percentages of hidden African ancestry.[77] White Americans (European Americans) on average are: "98.6 percent European, 0.19 percent African and 0.18 percent Native American." Inferred British/Irish ancestry is found in European Americans from all states at mean proportions of above 20%, and represents a majority of ancestry, above 50% mean proportion, in states such as Mississippi, Arkansas, and Tennessee. Scandinavian ancestry in European Americans is highly localized; most states show only trace mean proportions of Scandinavian ancestry, while it comprises a significant proportion, upwards of 10%, of ancestry in European Americans from Minnesota and the Dakotas.[76][77]

See also


  1. ^ The figure does not include respondents ignoring the ancestry question.
  2. ^ Germany in this time period consisted of a large number of separate countries, the largest of which was Prussia.
  3. ^ The Other category probably contains mostly English ancestry settlers; but the loss of several states' census records in makes closer estimates difficult. The summaries of the 1790 and 1800 census from all states surveyed.
  4. ^ Total represents total immigration over the approximately 130-year span of colonial existence of the U.S. colonies as found in the 1790 census. At the time of the American Revolution the foreign born population was estimated to be from 300,000 to 400,000.
  5. ^ Excludes Flemish.[47]
  6. ^ Excludes Moravian.[47]
  7. ^ a b This category represents a general type response, which may encompass several ancestry groups.[47]
  8. ^ Excludes Bavarian, Prussian, Saxon, and West German.[47]
  9. ^ Excludes Northern Irish and Celtic.[47]
  10. ^ Excludes Sicilian.[47]


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External links

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