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1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/United States, The/Population and Social Conditions

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V.—Population and Social Conditions

Geographical Growth of the Nation.—The achievement of independence found the people of the United States owning the entire country between the Gulf and the Great Lakes excepting only Florida, as far to the west as the Mississippi; but the actual settlements were, with a few minor exceptions, confined to a strip of territory along the Atlantic shore. The depth of settlement, from the coast inland, varied greatly, ranging from what would be involved in the mere occupation of the shore for fishing purposes to a body of agricultural occupation extending back to the base of the great Atlantic chain, and averaged some 250 m.[1]

Westward, beyond the general line of continuous settlement were four extensions of population through as many gaps in the Appalachian barrier, constituting the four main paths along which migration westward first took place: the Mohawk Valley in New York, the upper Potomac, the Appalachian Valley, and around the southern base of the Appalachian system. Four outlying groups beyond the mountains, with perhaps a twentieth part of the total population of the nation,—one about Pittsburg, one in West Virginia, another in northern Kentucky, and the last in Tennessee: all determined in situation by river highways—bore witness to the qualities of strength and courage of the American pioneer. Finally, there were in 1790 about a score of small trading or military posts, mainly of French origin, scattered over the then almost unbroken wilderness of the upper Mississippi Valley and region of the Great Lakes.

Twelve decennial censuses taken since that time (1800–1910) have revealed the extraordinary spread of population over the present area of the country (see Census: United States). The large percentage of the population, particularly of the great urban centres, that is established to-day in the river lowlands, reflects the rôle that water highways have played in the peopling of the country. The dwindling and growths of Nevada down to the present day, and to not a slight degree the general history of the settlement of the states of the Rocky Mountain region, are a commentary on the fate of mining industries. The initial settlement of the Pacific coast following the discovery of gold in California in 1848, and of the eastern base of the Rocky Mountains after the discovery of gold in 1859, illustrates the same factor. The Mormons settled Utah to insure social isolation, for the security of their theological system. A large part of the Great Plains to the east of the Rockies was taken up as farms in the decade 1880–1890; abandoned afterwards, because of its aridity, to stock grazing; and reconverted from ranches into farms when a system of dry farming had proved its tillage practicable. The negro more or less consciously moves, individually, closer into the areas whose climate and crops most nearly meet his desires and capabilities as a farmer; and his race as a whole unconsciously is adjusting its habitat to the boundaries of the Austroriparian life zone. The country's centre of population in 110 years moved more than 500 m. westward, almost exactly ialong the 39th parallel of latitude: 9.5 degrees of longitude, with an extreme variation of less than 19 minutes of latitude.

Growth of the Nation in Population.—If the 19th century was remarkable with respect to national and urban growth the world over, it was particularly so in the growth of the United States. Malthus expressed the opinion that only in such a land of unlimited means of living could population freely increase. The total population increased from 1800 to 1900 about fourteen fold (1331.6%).[2] The rate of growth indicated in 1900 was still double the average rate of western Europe.[3] In the whole world Argentina alone (1869–1895) showed equal (and greater) growth. At the opening of the century not only all the great European powers of to-day but also even Spain and Turkey exceeded the United States in numbers; at its close only Russia. At the census of 1910, while the continental United States population (excluding Alaska) was 91,972,266, the total, including Alaska, Hawaii and Porto Rico, but excluding the Philippine Islands, Guam, Samoa and the Canal Zone, was 93,402,151.

 Census 
Years.
Continental United States, exclusive of Alaska.
Population enumerated. Number of
foreign
 immigrants 
entering in
preceding
decade.
Areas (excluding water), in square miles.
Population
 within area 
of 1790.
Population
 within added 
area.
Total population. Total area. Settled area.
Number. Dec-
 ennial 
incr-
ease
per
cent.
Total. Area
acquired in
preceding
decade.
Area with
not less than
two persons
per sq. m.
Total area covered by
census.
Density of population.
Estimated
area of
isolated
settlements
beyond the
general
frontier.
Total. Of area
with not
less
than two
persons
per
sq. m.
Of entire census area.
Area of
1790.
Added
area.
Whole
area.
 1790  3,929,625 3,929,214 819,466 239,935 13,850 417,170 16.4 9.4 9.6
 1800  5,247,355 61,128 5,308,483 35.1 819,466 305,708 33,800 434,670 17.4 12.6 0.2 12.2
 1810  6,779,308 460,573 7,239,881 36.4 1,698,107 878,641§ 407,945 25,100 556,010 17.7 16.3 0.8 13.0
 1820  8,293,869 1,344,584 9,638,453 33.1 250,000† 1,752,347 54,240|| 508,717 4,200 688,670 18.9 19.9 2.4 13.9
 1830  10,240,232 2,625,788 12,860,692* 33.5 143,439 1,752,347 632,717 4,700 877,170 20.3 24.5 4.3 14.5
 1840  11,781,231 5,288,222 17,063,353* 32.7 599,125 1,752,347 807,292 2,150 1,183,870 21.1 28.2 7.1 14.4
 1850  14,569,584 8,622,292 23,191,876 35.9 1,713,251 2,939,021 1,186,674¶ 979,249 38,375 1,519,170 23.7 34.9 5.3 15.2
 1860  17,326,157 14,117,164 31,443,321 35.6 2,598,214 2,970,038 31,017** 1,194,754 107,375 1,951,520 26.3 41.5 5.7 16.1
 1870  19,687,504 18,870,867 38,558,371 22.6 2,314,824 2,970,038 1,272,239 131,910 2,126,290 30.3 47.2 7.6 13.4
 1880  23,925,639 26,263,570 50,155,783 30.1 2,812,191 2,970,038 1,569,565 260,025 2,727,454 32.0 57.4 10.6 18.4
 1890  28,188,321 34,791,445 62,947,714 24.9 5,246,613 2,970,038 1,947,280 2,974,159 32.2 67.6 13.6 19.2
 1900   33,533,630 42,749,757 75,994,575* 20.7 3,844,420  2,970,138 100 1,925,590 2,974,159 39.5 80.4 16.7 25.5
 1910   91,972,266* 21.0 7,753,816‡  2,974,159 30.9

 *Excludes persons of the military and naval service stationed abroad (5318 in 1830; 6100 in 1840; 91,219 in 1900).
 †Estimates of total up to 1820.
 ‡Total, 27,604,509, exclusive of at least some hundreds of thousands of Canadians and Mexicans.
 §Louisiana purchase from France.
 ||Florida purchase from Spain; population counted first, 1830.
 ¶Annexation of Texas (385,926 sq. m.); peace cession from Mexico (520,068 sq. m.); extinction of British claims to Oregon (280,680 sq. m.).
 ** Gadsden purchase from Mexico.

In 1790 there were about 600,000 white families in the United States. Speaking broadly, there were few very rich and few very poor. Food was abundant. Both social traditions and the religious beliefs of the people encouraged fecundity. The country enjoyed domestic tranquillity. All this time, too, the land was but partially settled. Mechanical labour was scarce, and even upon the farm it was difficult to command hired service, almost the only farm labourers down to 1850, in the north, being young men who went out to work for a few years to get a little money to marry upon. A change was probably inevitable and came, apparently, between 1840 and 1850.

The accessions in that decade from Ireland and Germany were enormous, the total immigration rising to 1,713,251 against 599,125 during the decade preceding, and against only 143,439 from 1820 to 1830. These people came in condition to breed with unprecedented rapidity, under the stimulus of an abundance, in regard to food, shelter and clothing, such as the most fortunate of them had never known. Yet in spite of these accessions, the population of the country realized a slightly smaller proportion of gain than when the foreign arrivals were almost insignificant.

For a time the retardation of the normal rate of increase among the native population was concealed from view by the extraordinary immigration. In the decade 1850-1860 it was seen that almost a seventh of the population of the country consisted of persons born abroad. From 1840 to 1860 there came more than four million immigrants, of whom probably three and a half million, with probably as many children born in America, were living at the latter date.

The ten years from 1860 to 1870 witnessed the operation of the first great factor which reduced the rate of national increase, namely the Civil War. The superintendent of the Ninth Census, 1870, presented a computation of the effects of this cause—first, through direct losses, by wounds or disease, either in actual service of the army or navy, or in a brief term following discharge; secondly, through the retardation of the rate of increase in the coloured element, due to the privations, exposures and excesses attendant upon emancipation; thirdly, through the check given to immigration by the existence of war, the fear of conscription, and the apprehension abroad of results prejudicial to the national welfare. The aggregate effect of all these causes was estimated as a loss, to the population of 1870 of 1,765,000. Finally, the temporary reduction of the birth-rate, consequent upon the withdrawal of perhaps one-fourth of the national militia (males of 18 to 44 years) during two-fifths of the decade, may be estimated at perhaps 750,000.

The Tenth Census put it beyond doubt that economic and social forces had been at work, reducing the rate of multiplication. Yet no war had intervened; the industries of the land had flourished; the advance in accumulated wealth had been beyond all precedent; and immigration had increased.

It is an interesting question what has been the contribution of the foreign elements of the country's population in the growth of the aggregate. This question is closely connected with a still more important one: namely, what effect, if any, has foreign immigration had upon the birth-rate of the native stock. In 1850 the foreign born whites (2,244,602 in number) were about two-thirds of the coloured element and one-eighth of the native-white element; in 1870 the foreign-born whites (5,567,229) and the native whites of foreign parentage (5,324,786) each exceeded the coloured. In 1900 the two foreign elements constituted one-third of the total population. The absolute numbers of the four elements were: native whites of native parents, 40,949,362; natives of foreign parents, 15,646,017; foreign-born whites, 10,213,817; coloured, 8,833,994.

Separating from the total population of the country in 1900 the non-Caucasians (9,185,379), all white persons having both parents foreign (20,803,800), and one-half (2,541,365) of the number of persons having only one parent foreign, the remaining 43,555,250 “native” inhabitants comprised the descendants of the Americans of 1790, plus those of the few inhabitants of annexed territories, plus those in the third and higher generations of the foreigners who entered the country after 1790 (or for practical purposes, after 1800). The second element may be disregarded. For the exact determination of the last element the census affords no precise data, but affords material for various approximations, based either upon the elimination of the probable progeny of immigrants since 1790; on the known increase of the whites of the South, where the foreign element has always been relatively insignificant; on the percentage of natives having native grandfathers in Massachusetts in 1905; or upon the assumed continuance through the 19th century of the rate of native growth (one-third decennially) known to have prevailed down at least to 1820. The last is the roughest approximation and would indicate a native mass of 50,000,000 in 1900, or a foreign contribution of approximately half. The results of computations by the first two methods yield estimates of the contribution of foreign stock to the “native” element of 1900 varying among themselves by only 1-8 %. The average by the three methods gives 8,539,626 as such contribution, making 31,884,791 the total number of whites of foreign origin in 1900; and this leaves 35,015,624 as the progeny of the origina stock of 1790.[4] Adding to the true native whites of 1900 (35,015,624) the native negroes (8,813,6(58), the increase of the native stock, white and black, since 1790 woul thus be about 1091 %, and of the whites of 1790 (3,172,006) alone about 1104%. It is evident that had the fecundity of the American stock of 1790 been equal only to that of Belgium (the most fertile population of western Europe in the 19th century) then the additions of foreign elements to the American people would have been by 1900 in heavy preponderance over the original, mainly British, elements. A study of the family names appearing on the census rolls of two prosperous and typical American counties, one distinctively urban and the other rural, in 1790 and 1900, has confirmed the popular impression that the British element is growing little, and that the fastest reproducers to-day are the foreign elements that have become large in the immigration current in very recent decades. In applying to the total population of 1790 the rate of growth shown since 1790 by the white people of the South, this rate, for the purpose of the above computations, is taken in its entirety only up to 1870, and thereafter—in view of the notorious lesser birth-rate since that year in the North and West—only one half of the rate is used. If, however, application be made of the rate in its entirety from 1790 to 1900, the result would be a theoretical pure native stock in 1900 equal to the then actually existing native and foreign stock combined.

In 1900 more than half of every 100 whites in New England and the Middle states (from New York to Maryland) were of foreign parentage (i.e. had one or both parents foreign), and in both sections the proportion is increasing with great rapidity. The Southern states, on the other hand, have shown a diminishing relative foreign element since 1870, and had in 1900 only 79 of foreign parentage. in 1000 whites. Relatively to their share of the country's aggregate population the North Atlantic states, and those upon the Great Lakes—the manufacturing and urbanized states of the Union—hold much the heaviest share of immigrant population.

The shares of different nationalities in the aggregate mass of foreigners have varied greatly. The family names on the registers of the first census show that more than 90% of the white population was then of British stock, and more than 80 was English. The Germans were already near 6%. The entry of the Irish began on a great scale after 1840, and in 1850 they formed nearly half of all the foreign-born. In that year 85.6% of this total was made up by natives of Great Britain and Germany. The latter took first place in 1880. In 1900 these two countries represented of the total only 52.7%; add the Dutch, the Danes, Swedes, Norwegians and Swiss to the latter and the share was 65.1%. A great majority of all of these elements except the British are settled in the states added to the original Union—the Scandinavians being the most typically agricultural element; while almost all the other nationalities are in excess, most of them heavily so, in the original states of 1790, where they land, and where they are absorbed into the lower grades of the industrial organization. Since 1880 Italians, Russians, Poles, Austrians, Bohemians and Hungarians have enormously increased in the immigrant population. Germans, Irish, British, Canadians, Scandinavians, Slavs and Italians were the leading elements in 1900.

In 1790 the negroes were 19.3% of the country's inhabitants; in 1900 only 11.6%. While the growth of the country's aggregate population from 1790 to 1900 was 1833.9%, that of the whites was 2005.9%, and of the negroes only 1066.7%.

Certain generalizations respecting the “South” and the “North,” the “East” and the “West” are essential to an understanding of parts of the history of the past, and of social conditions in the present. For the basis of such comparisons the country is divided by the census into five groups of states: (1) the North Atlantic division—down to New ]ersey and Pennsylvania; (2) the South Atlantic, division—from Delaware to Florida (including West Virginia); (3) the North Central division—including the states within a triangle tipped by Ohio, Kansas and North Dakota; (4) the South Central division—covering a triangle tipped by Kentucky, Alabama and Texas; and (5) the Western division—including the Rocky Mountains and Pacific states. The first and third lead to-day in manufacturing interests; the third in agricultural; the fifth in mining.

Groups 1 and 3 (with the western boundary somewhat indefinite) are colloquially known as the “North” and 2 and 4 as the “South.” The two sections started out with population growths in the decade 1790-1800 very nearly equal (36.5 and 33.7%); but in every succeeding decade before the Civil War the growth of the North was greater, and that of the South less, than its increment in the initial decade. In the two twenty-year periods after 1860 the increases of the North were 61.9 and 48.7%; of the South, 48.4 and 48.5%. In 1790 the two sections were of almost equal population; in 1890, 1900 and 1910 the population of the North was practically double that of the South. In the decade 1890-1900 the increase of the South exceeded slightly that of the North for the same period owing to the rapid development in recent years of the Southern states west of the Mississippi, which only the Western group has exceeded since 1870.[5] In general the increase of the two sections since 1880 has been nearly equal. But while this growth was relatively uniform over the South, in the North there was a low (often a decreasing) rate of rural and a high rate of urban growth. Throughout the 19th century the rates of growth of the North Central division and that of the eastern half of the South Central division steadily decreased. It is notable that that of the South Atlantic group has grown faster since 1860 than ever before, despite the Civil War and the conditions of an old settled region: a fact possibly due to the effects of the emancipation of the slaves.

Comparing now the population of the regions east and west of the Mississippi, we find that the population of the first had grown from 3,929,214 in 1790 to 55,023,513 in 1900; and that of the second from 97,401 in 1810 to 20,971,062 in 1900. From 1860 to 1890 the one increased its numbers decennially by one half, and the other by under one fifth; but from 1890 to 1910 the difference in growth was slight, owing to a tremendous falling off in the rate of growth of much of the Western and the western states of the North Central divisions. Only an eighth of the country’s total population lived in 1900 west of the 96th meridian, which divides the country into two nearly equal parts. Although, as already stated, the population of the original area of 1790 was passed in 1880 by that of the added area, the natives of the former were still in excess in 1900.

Urban and Rural Population.—The five cities of the country that had 8000 or more inhabitants in 1790 had multiplied to 548 in 1900. Only one of the original six (Charleston) was in the true South, which was distinctly rural. The three leading colonial cities, Philadelphia, New York and Boston, grew six-fold in the 18th century, and fifty-fold in the next. The proportion of the population living in cities seems to have been practically constant throughout the 18th century and up to 1820. The great growth of urban centres has been a result of industrial expansion since that time. This growth has been irregular, but was at a maximum about the middle of the century. On an average throughout the 110 years, the population in cities of 8000 considerably more than doubled every twenty years.[6] The rate of rural growth, on the other hand, fell very slowly down to 1860,[7] and since then (disregarding the figures of the inaccurate census of 1870) has been steady at about half the former rate. In Rhode Island, in 1900, eight out of every ten persons lived in cities of 8000 or more inhabitants; in Massachusetts, seven in ten. In New York, New Jersey and Connecticut the city element also exceeded half of the population. At the other extreme, Mississippi had only 3% of urban citizens. If the limit be drawn at a population of 2500 (a truer division) the urban element of Rhode Island becomes 95.0%; of Massachusetts, 91.5; of Mississippi, 7.7. All the Southern states are still relatively rural, as well to-day as a hundred years ago. Ten states of the Union had a density in 1910 exceeding 100 persons to the square mile: Illinois (100.7), Delaware (103), Ohio (117), Maryland (130.3), Pennsylvania (171.3), New York (191.2), Connecticut (231.3), New Jersey (337.3), Massachusetts (418.8) and Rhode Island (508.5).

There are abundant statistical indications that the line (be the influence that draws it economic or social) between urban centres of only 2500 inhabitants and rural districts is much sharper to-day than was that between the country and cities of 8000 inhabitants (the largest had five times that number) in 1790. The lower limit is therefore a truer division line to-day. Classifying, then, as urban centres all of above 2500 inhabitants, three-tenths of the total population lived in the latter centres in 1880 and four-tenths (30,583,411) in 1900; their population doubled in these twenty years. If one regards the larger units, they held naturally a little more of the total population of the country—just a third (33.1%; ten times their proportion of the country’s total in 1790); and they grew a little faster. The same years, however, made apparent a rapid fall, general and marked, yet possibly only temporary, in the rate at which such urban centres, as well as larger ones, had been gaining upon the rural districts; this reaction being most pronounced in the South and least so in the North Atlantic states, whose manufacturing industries are concentrated in dense centres of population.

Interstate migration is an interesting element in American national life. A fifth of the total population of 1900 were living in other states than those of birth; and this does not take account of temporary nor of multiple migration. Every state numbers among its residents natives of nearly every other state. This movement is complicated by that of foreign immigration. In 1900 the percentage of resident natives varied from 92.7% in South Carolina to 15% in Oklahoma; almost all of the Southern states having high percentages.

Sexes.—The percentages of males and females, of all ages, in the aggregate population of 1900, were 51.0 and 49.0 respectively. The corresponding figures for the main elements of the population were as follows: for native whites, 50.7 and 49.3; foreign whites, 54.0 and 46.0; negroes, 49.6 and 50.4. The absolute excess of males in the aggregate population has been progressively greater at every successive census since 1820, save that of 1870—which followed the Civil War, and closed a decade of lessened immigration. The relative excess of males in each unit of population has not constantly progressed, but has been continuous. In densely settled regions females generally predominate; and males in thinly settled regions. In every 1000 urban inhabitants there were, in 1900, 23 (in 1890 only 19) more females than in 1000 rural inhabitants. In the rural districts, so far as there is any excess of females, it is almost solely in the Southern cotton belt, where negro women are largely employed as farm hands.

Vital Statistics, 1900.—The median age of the aggregate population of 1900—that is, the age that divides the population into halves—was 22.85 years. In 1800 it was 15.97 years. A falling birth-rate, a falling death-rate, and the increase in the number of adult immigrants, are presumably the chief causes of this difference. The median age of the foreign-born in 1900 was 38.42 years. The median age of the population of cities of 25,000 or more inhabitants was 3.55 years greater than that of the inhabitants of smaller urban centres and rural districts, owing probably in the main to the movement of middle-aged native and foreign adults to urban centres, and the higher birth-rate of the rural districts. The median age of the aggregate population is highest in New England and the Pacific states, lowest in the South, and in the North Central about equal to the country’s average. The average age of the country’s population in 1900 was 26.2 years. The United States had a larger proportion (59.1%) within the “productive” age limits of 15 and 60 years than most European countries; this being due to the immigration of foreign adults (correspond in figure 80.3%), the productive group among the native whites (55.8%) being smaller than in every country of Europe. The same is true, however, of the population over 60 years of age.

The death-rate of the United States, though incapable of exact determination, was probably between 16 and 17 per 1000 in 1900; and therefore less than in most foreign countries. Death-rate. The following statement of the leading causes of death during the eleven years 1890–1900 in 83 cities of above 25,000 population, is given by Dr J. S. Billings:—

Average Annual Death-rate
 per 100,000 Population 
for the Cities of the
Sections Indicated.
 Consumption.  Pneumonia.  Typhoid 
Fever.
 Diphtheria and 
Croup
 New England2442203077
 Middle states25926832101
 Lake states1561594379
 Southern states2771895054
 West North Central1831423861

Among the statistics of conjugal condition the most striking facts are that among the foreign-born the married are more than twice as numerous as the single, owing to the predominance of adults among the immigrants; and the native whites of foreign parents marry late and in much smaller proportion Marriage. than do the native whites of native parentage—the explanation of which is probably to be found in the reaction of the first American generation caused on one hand by the high American standard of living, and on the other by the relative economic independence of women. In 1900 1.0% of the males and 10.9% of the females from 15 to 19 years of age were married; from 20 to 24 years, 21.6% and 46.5% respectively. Of females above 15 years of age 31.2% were single, 56.9 married, 11.2 widowed, 0.5 divorced; many of the last class undoubtedly reporting themselves as of the others. The corresponding figures for males were: 40.2, 54.5, 4.6 and 0.3%. In 1850 there were 5.6 persons (excluding the slave population) in an average American family; fifty years later there were only 4.7—a decline, which was constant, of 16.1%. In 1790, 5 persons was also the normal family—i.e. the greatest proportion (14%) of the total were of this size; but in Families. 1900 the model family was that of 3 persons by a more decisive proportion (18%). The minimum state average of 1790, which was 5.4 in Georgia, was greater than the maximum of 1900. Within the area of 1790 there were twice as many families in 1900 as in 1790 consisting of 2 persons, and barely half as many consisting of 7 and upward; New England having shown the greatest and the South the least decrease. In 1790 about a third and in 1900 more than one half of all families had less than 5 members.

The data gathered by the Federal census have never made possible a satisfactory and trustworthy calculation of the birth-rate, and state and local agencies possess no such data Birth-rate. for any considerable area. But the evidence is on the whole cumulative and convincing that there was a remarkable falling off in the birth-rate during the 19th century. And It may be noted, because of its bearing upon the theory of General Francis A. Walker, that the Old South of 1790, practically unaided by immigration, maintained a rate of increase at least approximating that attained by other sections of the country by native and foreign stock combined. Not a state of the Union as it existed in 1850 showed an increase, during the half-century following, in the ratio of white children under 16 to 1000 white females over 16 years: the ratio declined for the whole country from 1600 to 1100; and it has fallen for the census area of 1790 from 1900 in that year to 1400 in 1850 and 1000 in 1900. On the other hand, elaborate colonial censuses for New York in 1703 and 1812 show ratios of 1900 and 2000, and reinforce the suggestions of various other facts that the social, as well as the economic, conditions in colonial times were practically constant.

 Sections of the 
Country.[8]
 Whites under 16 Years per 1000 
of Total Population.
1790. 1820. 1850. 1880. 1900.
Area of 1790  490  483  414  373  344
New England  470  443  358  309  291
Middle states  494  485  405  358  326
Old South  502  508  464  431  402
Added area  —  526  463  406  368

The decline in the proportion of children since 1860 has been decidedly less in the South (Southern Atlantic and South Central states as defined below) than in the North and West, but in the most recent decades the last section has apparently fast followed New England in having a progressively lesser proportion of children. In the North there was little difference in 1900 in the ratios shown by city and country districts, but in the South the ratio in the latter was almost twice that reported for the former.

The decades 1840–1850, 1880–1890 and 1860–1870 have shown much the greatest decreases in the percentage of children; and some have attributed this to the alleged heavier immigration of foreigners (largely adults) in the case of the two former decades, and the effects of the Civil War in the third. So also the three decades immediately succeeding the above showed minimum decreases; and this has been attributed to a supposed greater birth-rate among the immigrants.

These uncertainties raise a greater one of much significance, viz. what has been the cause of the reduction in the national birth-rate indicated by the census figures? The question has been very differently judged. In the opinion of General Francis A. Walker, superintendent of the censuses of 1870 and 1880, the remarkable fact that such reduction coincided with a cause that was regarded as certain to quicken the increase of population, viz. the introduction of a vast body of fresh peasant blood from Europe, afforded proof that in this matter of population morals are far more potent than physical causes. The change, wrote General Walker, which produced this falling off from the traditional rate of increase of about 3% per annum, was that from the simplicity of the early times to comparative luxury; involving a rise in the standard of living, the multiplication of artificial necessities, the extension of a paid domestic service, the introduction of women into factory labour.[9] In his opinion the decline in the birth-rate coincidently with the increase of immigration, and chiefly in those regions where immigration was greatest, was no mere coincidence; nor was such immigrant invasion due to a weakening native increase, or economic defence; but the decline of the natives was the effect of the increase of the foreigners, which was “a shock to the principle of population among the native element.” Immigration therefore, according to this theory, had “amounted not to a reinforcement of our population, but to a replacement of native by foreign stock. That if the foreigners had not come, the native element would long have filled the places the foreigners usurped, I entertain”—says General Walker—“not a doubt.”

It is evident that the characteristics of the “factory age” to which reference is made above would have acted upon native British as upon any other stock; and that it has universally so acted there is abundant statistical evidence, in Europe and even in a land of such youth and ample opportunities as Australia. The assumption explicitly made by General Walker that among the immigrants no influence was yet excited in restriction of population, is also not only gratuitous, but inherently weak; the European peasant who landed (where the great majority have stayed) in the eastern industrial states was thrown suddenly under the influence of the forces just referred to; forces possibly of stronger influence upon him than upon native classes, which are in general economically and socially more stable. On the whole, the better opinion is probably that of a later authority on the vital statistics of the country, Dr John Shaw Billings,[10] that though the characteristics of modern life doubtless influence the birth-rate somewhat, by raising the average age of marriage, lessening unions, and increasing divorce and prostitution, their great influence is through the transmutation into necessities of the luxuries of simpler times; not automatically, but in the direction of an increased resort to means for the prevention of child-bearing.

Education.—In the article Education (United States), and in the articles on the several states, details are given generally of the conditions of American education. Here the statistics of literacy need only be considered.

In 1900 illiterates (that is, persons unable to write, the majority of these being also unable to read) constituted nearly one-ninth (10.7%) of the population of at least ten years of age; but the greatest part of this illiteracy is due to the negroes and the foreign immigrants. Since 1880 the proportion of illiteracy has steadily declined for all classes, save the foreign-born between 1880 and 1890, owing to the beginning in these years, on a large scale, of immigration from southern Europe. Illiteracy is less among young persons of all classes than in the older age-groups, in which the foreign-born largely fall. This is due to the extension of primary education during the last half of the 19th century. The older negroes (who were slaves) naturally, when compared with the younger, afford the most striking illustration of this truth. On the other hand, a notable exception is afforded by the native whites of native parents, particularly in the South, where child illiteracy (and child labour) is highest; the declining proportion of illiterates shown by the age-groups of this class up to 24 years is apparently due to a will to learn late in life.

The classification of the illiterate population (above 10 years of age) by races shows that the Indians (56.2%), negroes (44.5%), Chinese (29.0%), Japanese (18.3%), foreign white (13.0%), native white of native parentage (5.7%), and native whites of foreign parents (1.6%), are progressively more literate. The advantage of the last as compared with native whites of native parentage is apparently owing to the lesser concentration of these in cities. The percentages of illiterate children for different classes in 1900 were as follows: negroes, 30.1; foreign whites, 5.6; native whites of foreign parentage, 0.9; native whites of native parentage, 4.4. There is a greater difference in the North than in the South between the child illiteracy of the Caucasian and non-Caucasian elements; also a ranking of the different sections of the country according to the child illiteracy of one and the other race shows that the negroes of the South stand relatively as high as do its whites. All differences are lessened if the comparison be limited to children, and still further lessened if also limited to cities. Thus, the illiteracy of non-Caucasians was 44.5%, of their children 30.1%, and of such in cities of 25,000 inhabitants, 7.7%.

In the total population of 10 years of age and over the female sex is more illiterate than the male, but within the age-group 10 to 24 years the reverse is true. In 1890 females preponderated among illiterates only in the age-group 10 to 19 years. The excess of female illiteracy in the total population also decreased within the same period, from 20.3 to 10.8 illiterates in a thousand. The tendency is therefore clearly toward an ultimate higher literacy for females; a natural result where the two sexes enjoy equal facilities of schooling, and the females greater leisure. Among the whites attending school there was still in 1900 a slight excess of males; among the negro pupils females were very decidedly in excess. In all races there has been since 1890, throughout the country, a large increase in the proportion of girls among the pupils of each age-group; and this is particularly true of the group of 15 years and upward-that is of the grammar school and high school age, in which girls were in 1900 decidedly preponderant. A similar tendency is marked in college education.

Religious Bodies.—According to the national census of religious bodies taken in 1906 there were then in the country 186 denominations represented by 212,230 organizations, 92.2% of which represented 164 bodies which in history and general character are identified more or less closely with the Protestant Reformation or its subsequent development. The Roman Catholic Church contributed 5.9% of the organizations. Among other denominations the Jewish congregations and the Latter Day Saints were the largest. The immigrant movement brings with it many new sects, as, for example, the Eastern Orthodox churches (Russian, Servian, Syrian and Greek), which had practically no existence in 1890, the year of the last preceding census of religious bodies. But the growth of independent churches is most remarkable, having been sixfold since 1890.

The statistics of communicants or members are defective, and because of the different organization in this respect of different bodies, notably of the Protestants and Roman Catholics, comparisons are more or less misleading. Disregarding, however, such in comparability, but excluding 15% of all Roman Catholics (for children under 9 years of age), the total number of church members was 32,936,445, of whom 61.6% were Protestants, 36.7% Roman Catholics and 1.7% members of other churches. The corresponding figures in 1890 were 68.0, 30.3 and 1.7%. For the reasons just given these figures do not accurately indicate the religious affiliations of the population of the United States. In this particular they very largely understate the number of Hebrews, whose communicants (0.3%) are heads of families only, and largely of the Protestants; whereas they represent practically the total Roman Catholic population above years of age. In comparing the figures of 1890 with those of 1906 these cautions are not of force, since both census counts were taken by the same methods. The membership of the Protestant bodies increased in the interval 44.8%, while that of the Roman Catholic Church increased 93.5%. The immigration from Catholic countries could easily account for (though this does not prove that in fact it is the only cause of) this great increase of the Roman Catholic body.

Among the Protestants, the Methodists with 17.5% of the total membership, the Baptists with 17.2, the Lutherans with 6.4, the Presbyterians with 5.6 and the Disciples and Christians with 3.5—each of these bodies comprising more than a million members—together include one-half of the total church membership of the country, and four-fifths (81.3%) of all Protestant members.

The Baptists and Methodists are much stronger in the South, relatively to other bodies, than elsewhere; the former constituting in the South Atlantic states 43.9% of all church members, and in the South Central states 39.5%. Adding in the Methodists these proportions become 76.3 and 65.3%. The Lutherans are relatively strongest in the North Central division of the country (13.2%); the Presbyterians in the North Atlantic and Western divisions (6.0%); and the Disciples in the South Central division (6.1%). The Roman Catholics are strongest in the Western division and the North Atlantic division, with 49.2% in the former and 56.6% in the latter of all church members; their share in the North Central division is 36.9%. Thus the numerical superiority of the Baptists and Methodists in the two Southern divisions is complementary to that of the Roman Catholics in the other three divisions of the country. New York, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and New Hampshire in the eastern part of the country, Louisiana in the south, and New Mexico, Arizona, California and Montana in the western part are distinctively Roman Catholic states, with not less than 63% of these in the total church body. Racial elements are for the most part the explanation. So also the immigration of French Canadians and of Irish explains the fact that in every state of one-time Puritan New England the Roman Catholics were a majority over Protestants and all other churches. This was true in 1890 of 12 states, while in one other the Roman Catholics held a plurality; in 1906 the corresponding figures were 16 and 20. The Protestant bodies are more widely and evenly distributed throughout the country than are the Roman Catholics.

The total value of church property (almost in its entirety exempt from taxation) reported in 1906 was $1,257,575,867, of which $935,942,578 was reported for Protestant bodies, $292,638,786 for Roman Catholic bodies, and $28,994,502 for all other bodies.

Occupations.—29,073,233 persons 10 years or more of age—nearly two-fifths (38.3%) of the country's total population—were engaged in gainful occupations in 1900. Occupations were reported first for free males in 1850, and since 1860 women workers have been separately reported. Five main occupation groups are covered by the census: (1) agriculture, (2) professional service, (3) domestic and personal service, (4) trade and transportation, (5) manufacture and mechanical pursuits. The percentage of all wage-earners engaged in these groups in 1900 was 35.7, 4.3, 19.2, 16.4, and 24.4 respectively. Outside of these are the groups of mining and fishing.

Although manufactures have increased tremendously of recent years—their products representing in 1905 a gross total of $14,802,147,087 as compared with $6,309,000,000 for those of farms (according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture)—agriculture is still the predominant industry of the United States, employing nearly half of the workers, and probably giving subsistence to considerably more than half of the people of the country.

Turning to the factor of sex, it may be stated that the total number of the gainfully employed in 1900 above given included 80.0%, of all the men and boys, and 18.8% of all the women and girls in the country. The corresponding figures in 1880 were 78.7 and 14.7%. The proportion of women workers is greatest in the North Atlantic group of states (22.1%) where they are engaged in manufacturing, and in the South (23.8) where negro women are engaged in agricultural operations. The percentage of such wage-earners is therefore increasing much more rapidly in the former region. But in all other parts of the country the increase is faster than in the South; since aside from agriculture, which has long been in a relatively stable condition, there is not by any means so strong a movement of women into professional services in city districts. The increase is universal. There is not a state that does not show it. The greatest increase for any section between 1880 and 1900 was that of the North Central division from 8.8 to 14.3%. Here too both factors—farm-life, as in North Dakota, and manufacturing, as in Illinois-showed their plain influence.

Of all agricultural labourers 9.4% were females in 1900 (7.7 in 1880); but in the South the proportion was much greater—16.5 in the South Atlantic and 14.9 in the South Central division. In professional service 34.2% (in 1880, 29.4) were females, the two northern sections showing the highest proportions. In the occupations of musicians and teachers of music, and of school-teachers and professors (which together account for seven-eighths of professional women) women preponderate. The same sex constituted only 37.5% (34.6% in 1880) of the wage-earners of the third group; the South also showing here, as is natural in view of its coloured class, much the highest and the Western division of states much the lowest percentage. Women are in excess in the occupations of boarding and lodging house keepers, housekeepers, launderers, nurses and midwives, and servants and waiters. These account for almost all women in this group; servants and waitresses make up two-thirds of the total. Finally, in the fourth and fifth groups the percentage of women was 10.6 (3.4 in 1880) and 18.5 (16.7 in 1880). In manufactures the South Atlantic states show a higher percentage than the North Central, owing to the element of child labour already indicated. In the third group women greatly preponderate in the occupation of stenographers and type-writers; and in those of book-keepers and accountants, clerks and copyists, packers and shippers, saleswomen (which is the largest class), and telegraph and telephone operators they have a large representation (13 to 34%). A great variation exists in the proportion of the sexes employed in different manufacturing industries. Of dress-makers, milliners, seamstresses (which together make up near half of the total in this occupation group) more than 96% are women. Of the makers of paper boxes, of shirts, collars and cuffs, of hosiery and knitting mill operatives, of glove-makers, silk mill operatives and book-binders they are more than half; so also of other textile workers, excluding wool and cotton mill operatives (these last the second largest group of women workers in manufactures), in which occupations males are in a slight excess. The distribution of women wage earners in 1900 among the great occupation groups was as follows: in agriculture, 18.4%; professional service, 8.1%; domestic and personal service, 39.4%; trade and transportation, 9.4%; manufacturing and mechanical pursuits, 24.7%.

The proportion which children 10 to 15 years of age engaged in gainful occupations bore to the whole number of such children was in 1880 24.4% for males, and 9.0% for females. Twenty years later the corresponding figures were 26.1 and 10.2%. In the North Atlantic and North Central states, notwithstanding their manufacturing industries, the proportions were much lower (17.1 and 17.0 in 1900), and they increased very little in the period mentioned. In the Western group the increase was even less, and the total (10.9% in 1900) also. But in the South Atlantic and the South Central states—where agriculture, mining and manufacturing have in recent decades become important—although the increase was very slight, the proportions were far above those of the other sections, both in 1880 and in 1900. In the former year the ratios were 40.2 and 41.5, in the latter 41.6 and 42.7%. In Alabama (70.8% in 1880), North and South Carolina, and Arkansas the ratio exceeded 50% in 1900.

National Wealth.—Mulhall has estimated the aggregate wealth of the United States in 1790 at $620,000,000, assigning of this value $479,000,000 to lands and $141,000,000 to buildings and improvements. It is probable that this estimate is generous according to the values of that time. But even supposing $1,000,000,000 to be a juster estimate according to present-day values, it is probable that the increase of this since 1790 has been more than a hundredfold and since 1850 (since when such data have been gathered by the census) about fifteenfold. The value of farm property increased from $3,967,343,580 in 1850 to $20,439,901,164 in 1900. The gross value of manufactures rose in the same interval from $1,019,106,616 to $13,010,036,514; of farm products, from $2,212,540,927 in 1880 to $6,309,000,000 in 1900. The census estimate of the true value of “property” constituting the national wealth was limited in an enumeration of 1850 to taxable realty and privately held personalty; in 1900 it covered also exempt realty, government land, and corporation and public personalty. The estimate of the national wealth of 1850 was $7,135,780,228; in 1904 (made by the census office), $107,104,192,410. It may be added that the net ordinary revenue of the government was in 1850 $43,592,889, and in I909 $662,324,445; that the value of imports rose from $7.48 per capita in 1850 to $14.47 in 1909; and of exports from $6.23 to $18.50. The public debt on the 1st of November 1909, less certificates and notes offset by cash in the Treasury, was $1,295,147,432.04.  (F. S. P.) 


  1. In the Statistical Atlas volume of the census of 1900 the reader will find for each decennial census since 1790 a map showing the distribution of population, with indication of the density of settlement, and an elaborate explanatory text. In Orin Grant Libby’s Geographical Distribution of the Vote of the Thirteen States on the Federal Constitution, 1787–1788 (University of Wisconsin, Madison, 1854), along, with a valuable map interesting facts are given regarding the social and economic characteristics of different sections.
  2. Unless otherwise explicitly stated, by “United States” is to be understood continental United States exclusive of Alaska.
  3. According to Lavasseur and Bodio, 14.5% from 1860 to 1880; 21.2% from 1880 to 1900; from 1886–1900, 11.0%.
  4. W. S. Rossiter, A Century of Population Growth (Bureau of the Census, Washington, 1909), pp. 85 seq.
  5. The number of inhabitants of the North at each census for every 1000 in the South was as follows from 1790 to 1900: 1004; 1025; 1092; 1181; 1253; 1455; 1562; 1769; 2057; 1930; 2005; 1932.
  6. Average 62.2% decennially.
  7. Average 31.9% decennially.
  8. Table from Rossiter, op. cit., p. 103.
  9. See his Discussions in Economics and Statistics, 11. 422, “Immigration and Degradation.”
  10. See the Forum (June, 1893), xv. 467.