How Did Study of American Ethnic and Immigration History Change After 1965?

The study of American ethnic and immigration history underwent a significant transformation after 1965. Prior to that, the focus was on European immigrants, who were considered the primary contributors to the country’s development.

However, with the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, the demographics of immigration changed dramatically. This act abolished discriminatory quotas that favored Western Europeans while limiting Eastern and Southern Europeans, Asians, and Africans from entering the United States. As a result, there was an influx of immigrants from these regions.

The Impact of 1965 Immigration Act

The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 was a landmark legislation that significantly altered the face of America’s immigration policy. The act abolished the quota system that had been in place since 1924 and replaced it with a new system based on family reunification and skills-based criteria. This led to an increase in non-European immigration to the United States.

Shift in Focus

The shift in demographics caused by the 1965 act led to a significant change in focus for American ethnic and immigration history. Previously, European immigrants had been the main focus of research due to their perceived contribution to American society. However, with the influx of new immigrants from Asia, Latin America, and Africa came a new interest in studying their experiences.

New Perspectives

Scholars began to examine how these new immigrants contributed to American society through their labor and cultural practices. They also explored how they faced discrimination throughout US history due to their race and ethnicity.

One notable example is Chinese Americans who were excluded from citizenship under laws such as the Chinese Exclusion Act (1882). Immigration scholars also began examining how policies such as redlining led to segregation in housing patterns for African Americans.


Another area where research shifted after 1965 was in exploring intersectionality between different marginalized groups. Scholars began to examine how race, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality intersected to shape the experiences of immigrants in the United States.


In conclusion, the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 led to a significant transformation in the study of American ethnic and immigration history. The influx of non-European immigrants led to new perspectives and research that examined how different marginalized groups experienced discrimination and contributed to American society. Through this research, scholars gained a deeper understanding of the complex interactions between race, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality that shape immigrant experiences in the United States.