German heritage in the US, cont'd

Thomas Ricento Thomas.Ricento at
Mon Jun 12 14:03:42 UTC 2006

On the 2000 census, respondents were asked to write in up to two
ancestries that defined their background.  20 million people wrote
'American', an increase from 13 million in the 1990 census, but still
only about 7 percent of the total national population.  Following the
Americanization period, the percentage of people of German ancestry in
states such as Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan, Nebraska declined sharply.  In
the 1910 census, over 2.3 million people claimed to have been
German-born compared to less than 1.7 million in 1920.  IN Nebraska,
about 14% of the population self identified as being of German origin in
1910, compared to only 4.4% in the 1920 census.  In Wisconsin, the
percentages went from 29% (1910) to 6.6% (1920).  The point of this is
that ethnic identification is highly influenced by historical context
and economic factors, among other things.  It is interesting that only
about 7% of the population sees itself in 'non-ethnic' terms;  whether
that means of English/Anglo-Saxon, Germanic, or Western European
background is difficult to say.  In day to day life, however, these
distinctions between 'German', 'English', or mixed European backgrounds
are less significant than the phenotypic constructions of 'race' which
continue to be pervasive and often determinative in designation of 'in
group' and 'out group' mindsets based on such superficial criteria as
Tom Ricento

	-----Original Message-----
	From: owner-lgpolicy-list at
[mailto:owner-lgpolicy-list at] On Behalf Of Anthea
Fraser Gupta
	Sent: Sunday, June 11, 2006 3:35 AM
	To: lgpolicy-list at
	Subject: RE: German heritage in the US, cont'd
	On the longer form of the 2000 census the ancestry question was
free choice. There must have been a wide range of answers. I would guess
that some would base it on patrilineal ancestry, others on the ancestry
they saw as dominant. The answer did not look as if it could be
fractional, so someone of mixed ancestry (most Americans, probably)
would be most likely to choose one alternative. Despite this, 6m people
chose more than one.
	In 2000 15.2% of the population described themselves as of
German ancestry, and 8.7% as of English ancestry (see attached, from
2000 census website). We don't know how many of those declared
	But it's possible, isn't it, for 66% of Americans to have German
ancestry and (picking a figure out of a hat, 'cos I couldn't find the
2000 results on the website) 75% to have 'British' (aggregated or not)
ancestry? I describe myself as English but I have (that I know of)
English, Scottish, Welsh, and Irish Tinker ancestry. 
	I feel that there is a worldwide drive to make people have a
single ancestral identity, and that these figures can disguise a history
of mixing (coming from both consensual and non-consensual conception),
just as a lot of figures on language background disguise bilingualism.
	*     *     *     *     * 
	Anthea Fraser Gupta (Dr) 
	School of English, University of Leeds, LS2 9JT
	NB: Reply to a.f.gupta at 
	*     *     *     *     * 


	From: owner-lgpolicy-list at on behalf of Harold
F. Schiffman
	Sent: Sat 10/06/2006 21:57
	To: Language Policy-List
	Subject: German heritage in the US, cont'd

	When I saw the recent message from Bill Beeman, stating that
"More than
	60% of all Americans have some German ancestry"  I was dubious,
because I
	remembered a figure of about 24% from the 1990 census. So I did
	googling, and found this:
	Who's Counting?
	The l990 Census of German-Americans
	The results of the 1990 U.S. Census indicate that the total U.S.
	population is: 248,709,873. The five major groups and their
percentages of
	the total population are as follows:
	 1. German 57,985,595  (23.3 %)
	 2. Irish 38,739,548  (15.6 %)
	 3. English 32,655,779  (13.1 %)
	 4. Italian 14,714,939  (5.9 %)
	 5. Polish  9,366,106  (3.8 %)
	The "German" category does not include Germans from other
	states and regions of Europe and the Americas. Hence, to the
	statistic the following can be added:
	 1. Austrian 870,531
	 2. Swiss-German 700,000  (this is 70% of the total Swiss
	 3. Pennsylvania German 305,841
	 4. Luxemburger 49,061
	 5. Alsatian 16,465
	 6. German-Russian 10,153
	These six additional Germanic ethnic groups total 1,952,051.
	The total combination then of all seven German ethnic categories
	 German 57,985,595  (23.3 %)
	 Other categories 1,952,051  (4.8 %)
	 Total 59,937,646  (24.09 %)
	The results clearly confirm that German-Americans constitute
nearly a full
	one-fourth of the population. German-Americans take pride in the
fact that
	they are the major ethnic group in America, just as they can be
proud of
	their long history, dating back to the arrival of the first
Germans in
	America at Jamestown, Virginia in 1608.
	The 1980 Census included a map of Where in the united states
	German-Americans lived...[map not included here, hs]
	updated July 26, 2004   Home to Tricentennial Foundation Web
	[addendum (hs): Previously, "British" (or even English) heritage
	the list, but in 1980 the US census stopped aggregating British
	and divided it into English, Scottish, Irish, Welsh etc., at
which point
	German then topped the list.
	Note, however, that a category "Hispanic" does not even figure
in the top
	5 in 1980; and unless immigration from all Spanish-speaking
countries is
	aggregated, it still may not...
	If you go to an on-line US census page you get some
	on language use in the US, which of course is different from
	or "ancestry":  the largest percentage of a language other than
English is
	of course Spanish, with 28 million, followed by "other
	languages".  Chinese is spoken by 2 million...
	Hal Schiffman]

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