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United States: nativism and migration

Migration A–Z


  1. Maddalena Marinari

Published Online: 4 FEB 2013

DOI: 10.1002/9781444351071.wbeghm385

The Encyclopedia of Global Human Migration

The Encyclopedia of Global Human Migration

How to Cite

Marinari, M. 2013. United States: nativism and migration. The Encyclopedia of Global Human Migration. .

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 4 FEB 2013


Nativism first emerged in cities on the East Coast of the United States in the late 1830s and early 1840s in response to the large number of immigrants arriving from Northern Europe. Although it has waxed and waned in American history, at its core, nativism is a belief system rooted in sweeping cultural stereotypes and ethnocentric beliefs that manifests itself in the zeal to destroy the enemies of what is perceived to be a distinctively American way of life. “Nativism,” wrote John Higham, the pre-eminent historian on the subject, “should be defined as intense opposition to an internal minority on the ground of its foreign (i.e. ‘un-American') connections” (Higham 2002: 4). Although with several virulent precedents, nativism emerged as a leading force in American society at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century when the country witnessed a wave of mass migration from Southern and Eastern Europe.


  • cultural diversity;
  • ethnic conflict;
  • racism;
  • ethnocentrism