Map: Human Migration

National Geographic Genographic Project

Download this activity as a PDF.

The United States is often referred to as “a nation of immigrants,” and indeed it is. The population of the U.S. is made up of people who have come from other places – some many generations ago; others very recently.

The students in most classrooms are a microcosm of national immigration patterns.

Graphing Historical Data

a) Distribute copies of Activity #12-Handout 1 and sheets of graph paper. Instruct students to create bar graphs comparing the foreign-born population of the U.S. by region of birth for each of the four years for which data is provided. How have immigration patterns changed over the past 150 years?

Collecting/Presenting Data

b) Have students interview their parents or grandparents to find out approximately when their family first came to the U.S. and from which country.

c) Provide each student with a world map, preferably one that is “Americas-centered.” [See Americas-Centered Map]. Have each student locate the family’s country of origin and draw a colored line from that country to your location in the U.S. Have each student label the line with the approximate date of the family’s immigration.

d) Post a large Americas-centered map on the bulletin board and have each student add his/her immigration line to the map. Compare patterns on the class immigration map to the patterns observed in the national immigration graphs. Discuss similarities and differences.

Extending the Activity

Not only is the United States a popular target for international migration; people within the U.S. are very mobile as well. Each year people move in response to new jobs, changing family circumstances, or retirement.

a) Ask the students how many of them were born in the state where your school is located. Post a blank map of the U.S on the bulletin board and have students add their names to the states in which they were born. Ask how many students have lived in more than one state. Add this information to the map.

b) Visit this map of U.S. migration flows from the Pew Research Center. Examine the interactive maps on this web site that show movement of population among the regions of the U.S. over time. What patterns can be observed? What changes or events might explain these migration patterns? Click on the tab “States” and locate your state in the graph below the map. How does migration to and from your state compare to that of other states? Why do people move to or from your state?

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