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This article is about the U.S. population of Americans of European ancestry. For the European diaspora throughout the world, see Emigration from Europe.
European American
Total population
72.4% of the total U.S. population in 2010
Regions with significant populations
Continental United States, smaller populations in Alaska and Hawaii
English • German • Italian • French • Polish • Dutch • Norwegian • Swedish • others
Christianity: (Catholicism · Protestantism · Mormonism · Orthodoxy)
Judaism · Atheism · Agnosticism · Deism
Related ethnic groups
European ethnic groups, White people

A European American (also known as a Euro-American) is a citizen or resident of the United States who has origins in any of the original peoples of Europe.[14]

The Spanish were the first Europeans to establish a continuous presence in what is now the United States.[15] Martín de Argüelles born 1566, San Agustín, La Florida, was the first known person of European descent born in what is now the United States.[16] Twenty-one years later, Virginia Dare, born in 1587 on Roanoke Island in present-day North Carolina, was the first child born in the Thirteen Colonies to English parents.

In 2009, German Americans (16.5%), Irish Americans (11.9%), English Americans (9.0%) and Italian Americans (6.4%) were the four largest self-reported ancestry groups in the United States forming 43.8% of the total population.[17]

Overall, as the largest group, European Americans have the lowest poverty rate[18] and the second highest educational attainment levels, median household income,[19] and median personal income[20] of any racial demographic in the United States.



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.[21] The term "European American" is not in popular use in the U.S. among the general public or in the mass media, and the terms "white" or "white American" are commonly used instead.

The term "European American" is more narrow than "White American" in terms of their official usage. The term is different from "Caucasian American", "White American", and "Anglo American",[22] though "European American" is sometimes used as a synonym for "White American". According to the Texas Association of Museums, "European American", "White American", and "Caucasian American" are terms that vary in their preference depending on the individual and their descent.[23]

"Anglo American" is a term commonly used in the southwestern United States in place of "white" or "European American". The term arrived in the United States via Britain, but is based on the Angles tribe. The term also has a more specific reference than either "White American" or "Caucasian American" since both of these terms include a larger group of people than what is acknowledged in Europe. Also, whereas the terms "White American" and "Caucasian American" carry somewhat ambiguous definitions, depending on the speaker, European American has a more specific definition and scope. According to sociologist Rosanne Skirble, the term "European American" has increased a little in use, especially among scholars, but "White American" and "Caucasian American" continue to be generally preferred, depending on the descent of the given individual(s) or group to which the term refers.[24]


The term was coined by some to emphasize the European cultural and geographical ancestral origins of Americans in the same way that is done for African Americans and Asian Americans. A European American awareness is still notable because 90% of the respondents classified as white on the U.S. Census knew their European ancestry.[25] Historically, the concept of an American was conceived in the U.S. as a person of European ancestry to the exclusion of African Americans and Native Americans.[26]

As a linguistic concern, the term is often meant to discourage a dichotomous view of the racial landscape between the normative white category and everyone else.[27] 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.[28]


European-born population
in the U.S 1850 - 2010[29][30]
Year Population Percentage of foreign-born population
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 4,817,000 12.1%
European Emigration 1820-1978[31][32]
Country Total
Germany1 6,978,000
Italy 5,294,000
Great Britain 4,898,000
Ireland 4,723,000
Austria-Hungary1 4,315,000
Russia1 3,374,000
Sweden 1,272,000
Norway 856,000
France 751,000
Greece 655,000
Portugal 446,000
Denmark 364,000
Netherlands 359,000
Finland 33,000
Total 34,318,000
Note: Many returned to their country of origin

1 Includes Poles. See: Partitions of Poland

U.S. Historical Populations [33]
Country Immigrants
Before 1790
(1790 est.)[34]
England* 230,000 1,900,000
Ulster Scot-Irish* 135,000 320,000
Germany[35]1 103,000 280,000
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[36] 500 20,000
*British total 425,500 2,500,000+
Total[37] 950,000 3,929,214
African[38] immigrants before 1790:360,000,
total ancestry in 1790:757,208.

1 Includes Poles. See: Partitions of Poland

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. Prior to 1960, the overwhelming majority came from Europe or European descent from Canada. In 1960 for example, 75.0% of foreign-born population in the U.S came from the region of Europe.[39]

Before 1881, the vast majority of immigrants, almost 86% of the total, arrived from northwest Europe, principally Great Britain, Ireland, Germany, and Scandinavia. 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.[40][41][42]

European Americans are largely descended from colonial American stock supplemented by two sizable waves of immigration from Europe. Approximately 53 percent of European Americans today are of colonial ancestry, and 47 percent are descended from European, Canadian, or Mexican (or any Latin American) immigrants who have come to the U.S. since 1790 (and post-independence Mexico supplied Mexican-American immigration since 1890). Today, each of the three different branches of immigrants are most common in different parts of the country.


Colonial stock, which mostly consists of people of English, Scottish or Scots-Irish descent, may be found throughout the country but is especially dominant in the South. Some people of colonial stock, especially in the Mid-Atlantic states, are also of Dutch, German and Flemish descent. The vast majority of these are Protestants. The Pennsylvania Dutch (German American) population gave the state of Pennsylvania a high German cultural character. French descent, which can also be found throughout the country, is most concentrated in Louisiana, while Spanish descent is dominant in the Southwest and Florida. These are primarily Roman Catholic and were assimilated with the Louisiana Purchase and the aftermath of the Mexican-American War and Adams–Onís Treaty, respectively.

The first large wave of European migration after the Revolutionary War came from Northern and Central-Western Europe between about 1820 and 1890. Most of these immigrants were from Ireland, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, and Britain, and with large numbers of Irish and German Catholics immigrating, Roman Catholicism became an important minority religion. Polish Americans usually used to come as German or Austrian citizens, since Poland lost its independence in the period between 1772–1795. Descendants of the first wave are dominant in the Midwest and West, although German descent is extremely common in Pennsylvania, and Irish descent is also common in urban centers in the Northeast. The Irish and Germans held onto their ethnic identity throughout the 19th and early half of the 20th centuries, as well of other European ethnic groups. Most people of Polish origin live in the Northeast and the Midwest (See also White ethnic).

Second wave

The second wave of European Americans arrived from the mid-1890s to the 1920s, mainly from Southern, Central and Eastern Europe, as well as Ireland.[25] This wave included Irish, Italians, Greeks, Hungarians, Portuguese, Ukrainians, Russians, Poles and other Slavs. With large numbers of immigrants from Spain, Mexico, Spanish Caribbean, and South and Central America, White Hispanics have increased to 8% of the US population, and Texas, California, New York, and Florida are important centers for them.


At the 2010 Census there were 223,553,265 "White Americans", which includes 26.7 million White Hispanic and Latino Americans. That is, there are 196.8 million "Non-Hispanic Whites" (63.7% of the total population) and 26,735,713 White Hispanic and Latino Americans (8.7% of the population). Non-Hispanic Whites together with White Hispanic and Latino Americans form the census category of "White Americans" - see Race and ethnicity.

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.

It is important to note that 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 forbears and the apparent unimportance to many whites of European origin, responses appear quite inconsistent".[44]

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).

An important example to note is that in 1980 23.75 million Americans claimed English ancestry and 25.85 claimed English ancestry together with one or more other. This represents 49.6 million people. The table below shows that in 1990 when only single and primary responses were allowed this fell to 32 million and in 2000 to 24 million.[45]

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 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 southeastern European and White Hispanic and Latino American descent.


Mount Rushmore was sculpted by Danish American Gutzon Borglum. Sculptures of the heads of former United States presidents (from left to right) Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt and Lincoln.[46] Walt Disney who created Mickey Mouse was of Irish, English, French and German descent.

For the most part European American cultural lineage can be traced back to Western and Northern Europe and is institutionalized in the government, traditions, and civic education in the U.S.[47] The Solutrean hypothesis suggested that Europeans may have been among the first in the Americas.[48][49][50] More recent research has argued this not to be the case and that the founding Native American population came from Siberia through Beringia. An article in the American Journal of Human Genetics states "Here we show, by using 86 complete mitochondrial genomes, that all Native American haplogroups, including haplogroup X, were part of a single founding population, thereby refuting multiple-migration models."[51]

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.[25] Southern Europeans, specifically Italian and Greeks (see Greek American), have maintained high levels of ethnic identity. Same applied to Polish Americans. In the 1960s, Mexican Americans, Jewish Americans, and African Americans started exploring their cultural traditions as the ideal of cultural pluralism took hold.[25] European Americans followed suit by exploring their individual cultural origins and having less shame of expressing their unique cultural heritage.[25]

Four regions

In his 1989 book Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America (ISBN 0195069056), David Hackett Fischer explores the details of the folkways of four different groups of settlers that came to the American colonies during the 17th and 18th centuries from distinct regions of Britain and Ireland. His thesis is that the culture of each group persisted (albeit in modified form), providing the basis for the modern United States.

According to Fischer, the foundation of America's four regional cultures was formed from four mass migrations from four different regions of the British Isles by four distinct ethno-cultural groups. New England's formative period occurred between 1629 and 1640 when Puritans, mostly from East Anglia in England, settled there, thus forming the basis for the New England regional culture. The next mass migration was of southern English cavaliers as well as English indentured servants to the Chesapeake Bay region between 1640 and 1675. This spawned the American Southern culture.

Then, between 1675 and 1725, thousands of Irish, English and German Quakers, led by William Penn, settled the Delaware Valley. This resulted in the formation of the General American culture, although, according to Fischer, this is really a "regional culture," even if it does today encompass most of the U.S. from the mid-Atlantic states to the Pacific Coast. Finally, a huge number of Scots-Irish, Scottish and English settlers from the borderlands of Britain and Ireland migrated to Appalachia between 1717 and 1775. This left a distinctive cultural imprint on this region, and resulted in the formation of the Upland South regional culture, which has since expanded to the west to West Texas and parts of the U.S. Southwest.

He states that the U.S. is not a country with one "general" culture and several "regional" cultures, as is commonly thought. Rather, there are only four regional cultures as described above. Fischer also asserts that it is not only important to understand where different groups came from, but when. All population groups have had, at different times, their own unique set of beliefs, fears, hopes and prejudices. When different groups came to America and brought certain beliefs and values with them, these ideas became, according to Fischer, more or less frozen in time, even if they eventually changed in their original place of origin.

European ancestries table

Further information: Race and ethnicity in the United States and Maps of American ancestries
Ancestry 1980 % of U.S.
1990 % of U.S.
2000 % of U.S.
Change, 1990 to 2000
Albania Albanian[52] 38,658 0.02% 47,710 0.02% 113,661 0.04% +138.2%
Armenia Armenian [53] 214,362 0.09% 296,672 0.1% 385,488 0.1% +29.3%
United States American[54] (see notes) no data no data 12,395,999 5.0% 20,188,305 7.2% +62.9%
Austria Austrian[55] 948,558 0.42% 864,783 0.3% 730,336 0.3% -15.5%
Basque Country (autonomous community) Basque[56] 43,140 0.02% 47,956 0.02% 57,793 0.02% +20.5%
Belarus Belarusian 600,000 0.2%
Belgium Belgian[57] 360,277 0.16% 380,403 0.2% 348,531 0.1% -08.4%
Bosnia and Herzegovina Bosnian 350,000 0.1%
United Kingdom British[58] ? ? 1,119,140 0.4% 1,085,718 0.4% -03.0%
Bulgaria Bulgarian[59] 42,504 0.02% 29,595 0.01% 55,489 0.02% +87.5%
Catalonia Catalan[60] 1,738
Croatia Croatian[61] 252,970 0.11% 544,270 0.2% 374,241 0.1% -31.2%
Cyprus Cypriot[62] 4,897 7,643
Czech Republic Czech[63] 1,892,456 0.84% 1,296,369 0.5% 1,258,452 0.4% -02.9%
Denmark Danish[64] 1,518,273 0.67% 1,634,648 0.7% 1,430,897 0.5% -12.5%
Netherlands Dutch[65] 6,304,499 2.78% 6,226,339 2.5% 4,541,770 1.6% -27.1%
England English[66] 49,598,035 21.89% 32,651,788 13.1% 24,509,692 8.7% -24.9%
Estonia Estonian 25,994 0.01% 26,762 0.01% 25,034 0.01% -06.5%
Finland Finnish[67] 615,872 0.27% 658,854 0.3% 623,559 0.2% -05.4%
France French[68] 12,892,246 5.69% 10,320,656 4.1% 13,172,178 4.0% -19.5%
Georgia (country) Georgian 6,298
Germany German[69] 49,224,146 21.73% 57,947,171 23.3% 42,841,569 15.2% -26.1%
Greece Greek[70] 959,856 0.42% 1,110,292 0.4% 1,153,295 0.4% +03.9%
Hungary Hungarian[71] 1,776,902 0.78% 1,582,302 0.6% 1,398,702 0.5% -11.6%
Iceland Icelandic 32,586 0.01% 40,529 0.02% 42,716 0.01% +05.4%
Republic of Ireland Irish[72] 40,165,702 17.73% 38,735,539 15.6% 30,524,799 10.8% -21.2%
Italy Italian[73] 12,183,692 5.38% 14,664,189 5.9% 15,638,348 5.6% +06.6%
Latvia Latvian[74] 92,141 0.04% 100,331 0.04% 87,564 0.03% -12.7%
Liechtenstein Liechtensteiner[75] 1,244 0.0004
Lithuania Lithuanian[76] 742,776 0.33% 811,865 0.3% 659,992 0.2% -18.7%
Luxembourg Luxembourg[77] 45,139 0.01% -/+ 0%
Republic of Macedonia Macedonia[78] 57,200 0.02% -/+ -6,927%
Malta Maltese [79] 31,645 0.01% 39,600 0.02% 40,159 0.01% +01.4%
Moldova Moldovan [75] 7,859 0.003
Montenegro Montenegrin 80,000 0.03%
Norway Norwegian[80] 3,453,839 1.52% 3,869,395 1.6% 4,477,725 1.6% +15.7%
United States Pennsylvania Dutch[81] 255,807 0.1%
Poland Polish[82] 8,228,037 3.63% 9,366,051 3.8% 8,977,235 3.2% -04.2%
Portugal Portuguese[83] 1,024,351 0.45% 1,148,857 0.5% 1,173,691 0.4% +02.2%
Romania Romanian[84] 315,258 0.14% 365,531 0.1% 367,278 0.1% +0.5%
Russia Russian[85] 2,781,432 1.23% 2,951,373 1.2% 2,652,214 0.9% -10.1%
Ulster Scots-Irish[86] 16,418 0.007% 5,617,773 2.3% 4,319,232 1.5% -23.1%
Scotland Scottish[87] 10,048,816 4.44% 5,393,581 2.2% 4,890,581 1.7% -09.3%
Serbia Serbian[88] 100,941 0.04% 116,795 0.05% 51,679 0.05% -50%
Slovakia Slovak[89] 776,806 0.3% 1,882,897 0.8% 797,764 0.3% -57.6%
Slovenia Slovene[90] 126,463 0.06 124,437 0.1% 176,691 0.1% +42%
San Marino Sammarinese[91] 538
Spain Spanish[92] 94,528 0.04% 360,858 0.1% 299,948 0.1% -16.9%
Sweden Swedish[93] 4,345,392 1.92% 4,680,863 1.9% 3,998,310 1.4% -14.6%
Switzerland Swiss[94] 981,543 0.43% 1,045,492 0.4% 911,502 0.3% -12.8%
Turkey Turkish[95] 75,988 0.03% 86,427 0.17% 117,575 0.1% +36%
Ukraine Ukrainian[96] 730,056 0.32% 740,723 0.3% 892,922 0.3% +20.5%
Wales Welsh[97] 1,664,598 0.73% 2,033,893 0.82% 1,753,794 0.6% -13.8%
Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia Yugoslavs[77] 328,547 0.1%
Europe European [98] 1,968,696 0.7%
425,099 0.2%
Total 214,726,269 94.78% 223,371,445 89.81% 201,290,597 71.53% -18,28%

See also


  • Jewish Americans, particularly those of Ashkenazi and Sephardi descent, are a diaspora population with origins in South Western Asia, but are often classified as White rather than Asian. In addition, all of the original peoples of the Middle East are classified as White by the US Census Bureau.
  • Gypsy Americans are a diaspora group with origins in the Indian Subcontinent, but are sometimes classified as European.
  • Armenia is physiographically entirely in Western Asia, but it has strong historical and sociopolitical connections with Europe. The population and area figures include the entire state respectively.
  • Azerbaijan is often considered a transcontinental country in the Caucasus (Europe) and Western Asia. However the population and area figures are for the entire state. This includes the exclave of Nakhchivan and the region Nagorno-Karabakh that has declared, and de facto achieved, independence. Nevertheless, it is not recognized de jure by sovereign states.
  • Georgia is often considered a transcontinental country in the Caucasus (Europe) and Western Asia. It is placed in Europe by numerous European and international organizations.
  • Turkey is physiographically considered a transcontinental country in Western Asia and south-eastern Europe. However the population and area figures include the entire state, both the 5% European and 95% Asian portions.
  • The 1980 U.S. Census for details.
  • "American ethnicity" - (1990 Census) 12,395,999 (5.0% of total U.S. population); (2000 Census) 20,188,305 (7.2%). Mostly of English, Scottish, Scotch-Irish and/or Welsh ancestry that they cannot trace, given its predominance in the upper South (such as Kentucky). Also, two-thirds of white Americans have two or more different European nationalities, often four or more, and many "American" respondents may be cases where the person does not think any one ancestry is dominant enough to identify with (one typical example might be a person who is 1/4 Irish, 1/4 German, 1/4 Scottish, 1/8 Swedish, and 1/8 French).

Presidents of European descent

Most of the heritage that all forty-four US presidents come from (or in some combination thereof): is British (English, Scottish, Scotch-Irish or Welsh) ancestry. Others include John F. Kennedy of Irish descent, Martin Van Buren of Dutch descent and two presidents whose fathers were of German descent: Dwight D. Eisenhower (whose original family name was Eisenhauer) and Herbert Hoover (Huber). Later US Presidents' ancestry can often be traced to ancestors from multiple nations in Europe.[99]


In a recent study, Gonçalves et al. 2007 reported Sub-Saharan and Amerindian mtDNA lineages at a frequency of 3.1% (respectively 0.90% and 2.2%) in white North Americans of European descent.[100]

Based on a study of U.S. Census Bureau figures from 1980, 1990, and 2000, Census Bureau statisticians determined that one out of three European Americans is descended from only one European ethnicity; one out of three is descended from two European nationalities; and one out of three is descended from three or more European ethnic origins.

Another study, Lao et al.2010 was done on a total of 664 Americans, among them, 246 were self-declared U.S. African Americans, 127 were self-declared U.S. Hispanic Americans, and 245 were self-declared U.S. European Americans from Temple and Killeen, TX, Louisville, KY, Baltimore, MD, Philadelphia, PA, Memphis, TN and Miami, FL and 46 were self-declared U.S. Asian Americans from the Fairfield, OH source. Self-declared U.S. Europeans showed on average 93.2% of European ancestry (95% CI from 73.23% to 98.09%).[101]


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