Why Norwegians Aren’t Moving to the U.S.


As President Trump has cracked down on illegal immigration and reportedly disparaged the ‘shithole’ countries immigrants leave, there’s at least one place from which he’d like more immigration: Norway. While in the past he’s reported to have said all Haitians “have AIDS,” likened illegal immigrants to vomit, and called for “a complete and total shutdown” of Muslims entering the U.S., The Washington Post reports he mentioned Norway specifically as a place that should be sending people.

But it’s not.

In fiscal year 2016, 1.18 million people became legal permanent residents of the United States, according to data from the Department of Homeland Security. Of these, 362 were born in Norway. That status, which is also known as the “green card,” brings immigrants one step closer to becoming naturalized American citizens. That same year, 753,060 green-card holders became citizens. The number of Norwegians: 93. The number of Norwegians immigrants to the U.S. has steadily declined over the past five decades, according to data from the Migration Policy Institute, which studies global migration trends. In fact, there are fewer Norwegians living in the U.S. than any other major European country.

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It wasn’t always this way.

Between 1825 and 1925, 800,000 Norwegians came to the U.S., mostly settling in the Midwest. The mid-19th century was an especially good time to leave Norway. Indeed, at the time, some might have called it “a shithole.” Unemployment was high, there was little social mobility, and there wasn’t enough land for farms. The United States had recently passed the Homestead Act (1862), which gave settlers free land as long as they stayed on it for at least five years. The allure proved so great that Norway is estimated to have lost a larger share of its population to the U.S. than any other country, save Ireland. That was until the passage of the 1924 Immigration Act, the law designed to keep out Southern and Eastern Europeans, and Asians. The law had one unintended consequence: It dramatically lowered immigration from northern European Norway.