Immigrant children of unknown nationality photographed at Ellis Island in New York. ( US National Archives)

Immigrants of unknown nationality photographed at Ellis Island in New York. ( US National Archives)

America is a melting pot of immigrants from across the globe and people of German ancestry make up the biggest chunk of that mix.

There are more than 49 million people with German ancestry in the United States, a number that accounts for 16 percent of the American population.

“This includes people reporting multiple ancestries,” said David Garoogian, senior editor of Ancestry and Ethnicity in America, in an email. “Only 16,912,041 people reported being of German ancestry alone.”

There more than 41 million Americans who identify as Black or African American.

The US Census map identifies “Black” or  “African-American” as a term for US citizens with ancestry in Sub-Saharan Africa. African Americans live predominantly in the South, but there are also large Black or African-American communities in Chicago, Illinois and Detroit, Michigan.

Ethnicity Map large

Map from US Census Bureau using data from Census 2000.

The 35 million people who identify as “Irish” form the next-largest ethnic group, followed by the 31 million people who identify as “Mexican”.


Black/African American
French (ex. Basque)
Puerto Rican
Chinese (ex. Taiwanese)
Asian Indian
French Canadian

People who came from England, followed by Italians, Poles, and French people round out the largest ancestry groups in America.

There’s an old adage that says “Birds of a feather flock together” and that’s certainly the case with ethnic groups in the United States.

“For the most part, people of certain ancestries tend to congregate in certain parts of the country,” said Garoogian.

German-Americans have settled primarily in the Midwest where they account for more than 30 percent of the population.  You’ll find a heavy concentration of Irish-Americans in the U.S. Northeast, in states like Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine and Massachusetts.

People with Mexican ancestry are found along the Southwestern border of the United States and are heavily concentrated in Los Angeles, Houston, Phoenix, San Diego, Dallas, and San Antonio.

There are more than 19 million people who identify themselves only as “American”.

The U.S. Census Bureau says the reason for this could be because their ancestors have been in the United States for so long, or they have such mixed backgrounds, that they do not identify with any particular group.

Some foreign-born children or those with foreign-born parents might identify solely as “American” to show that they are part of American society.

Ancestry and Ethnicity in America used data from the 2010 Census and the 2006-2010 American Community Survey to reach its conclusions.

Hispanics are America’s second largest race or ethnic group, behind non-Hispanic whites, representing about 17 percent of the total population.

The Hispanic population grew by 2.2 percent, or more than 1.1 million, to just over 53 million in 2012. The growth in the Hispanic population was fueled primarily by births.

German immigrants photographed at Ellis Island in 1931. (German Federal Archives)

German immigrants photographed at Ellis Island in 1931. (German Federal Archives)

Asians are the nation’s fastest-growing race or ethnic group, according to the U.S. Census. Asians are identified as people coming from the Far East, Southeast Asia or the Indian subcontinent.

The Asian population rose by 530,000, or 2.9 percent, in 2011, to 18.9 million, according to US Census Bureau annual population estimates. More than 60 percent of this growth in the Asian population came from immigration.

The primary market for books like Ancestry and Ethnicity in America is public and university libraries, according to Laura Mars, editorial director at Grey House Publishing, which compiled the two-volume series, but businesses also use the data to market products.

“People who have a grocery store in Topeka, Kansas, are interested in ‘Well, should I stock Asian foods?’,” said Mars. “Educators might be interested in seeing what their demographic is and how to skew curriculum. I think it has a wide and varied use.”