Euro-Americans

 

A Euro-American, (also known as "European American", "Caucasian American", or "White American") is a citizen or resident of the United States who has origins in any of the original peoples of Europe.  This includes people via African, North American, Caribbean, Central American or South American and Oceanian nations which have a large European diaspora.

The Spanish were the first Europeans to establish a continuous presence in what is now the United States.  Martín de Argüelles born 1566, San Agustín, La Florida, was the first person of European descent born in what is now the United States.  Twenty-one years later, Virginia Dare born 1587 Roanoke Island in present-day North Carolina, was the first child born in the Thirteen Colonies to English parents.

In 2008, German Americans (16.5%), Irish Americans (11.9%), and English Americans (9.0%) were the three largest self-reported ancestry groups in the United States.

Overall, as the largest group, Euro-Americans have the lowest poverty rate and the second highest educational attainment levels, median household income, and median personal income of any racial demographic in the nation.

 

Terminology

In 1977, it was proposed that the term "Euro-American" replace "white" as a racial label in the U.S. Census; although this was not done.  The term "Euro-American" is not in popular use in the U.S. among the general public or in the mass media, and the terms "white" or "white American" are commonly used instead.

The term "Euro-American" is more narrow than "White American" in terms of their official usage.  The term is different from "Caucasian American", "White American", and "Anglo American", though "Euro-American" is sometimes used as a synonym for "White American".  According to the Texas Association of Museums, "Euro-American", "White American", "Caucasian American", and "Anglo" are terms that vary in their preference depending on the individual and their descent.  "Anglo American" is a term commonly used in the southwestern United States in place of "white" or "Euro-American".  The term also has a more specific reference than either "White American" or "Caucasian American" since both of these terms include a larger group of people than what is acknowledged in Europe.  Also, whereas the terms "White American" and "Caucasian American" carry somewhat ambiguous definitions, depending on the speaker, Euro-American has a more specific definition and scope.  According to sociological studies, the term "Euro-American" has increased a little in use, especially among scholars, but "White American", "Caucasian American", and "Anglo" continue to be generally preferred, depending on the descent of the given individual(s) or group to which the term refers.

The term was coined by some to emphasize the European cultural and geographical ancestral origins of Americans in the same way that is done for African Americans and Asian Americans.  A Euro-American awareness is still notable because 90% of the respondents classified as white on the U.S. Census knew their specific nation of European ancestry.  As a linguistic concern, the term is often meant to discourage a dichotomous view of the racial landscape between the normative white categories.   The recognition of specific European ancestry allows Euro-Americans to become aware that they come from a variety of different cultures.


Origins

Euro-Americans are largely descended from colonial American stock supplemented by two sizable waves of immigration from Europe.  Approximately 53 percent of Euro-Americans today are of colonial ancestry, and 47 percent are descended from European, Canadian, or Mexican (or any Latin American) immigrants who have come to the U.S. since 1790.  Today, each of the three different branches of immigrants are most common in different parts of the country.  Colonial stock, which is comprised mostly of people of English, Irish, Welsh, or Scottish descent, may be found throughout the country but is especially dominant in the South.  Some people of colonial stock, especially in the Mid-Atlantic states, are also descendants of German and Dutch immigrants.  The vast majority of these are Protestants or Roman Catholics.   French descent, which can also be found throughout the country, is most concentrated in Louisiana, while Spanish descent is dominant in the Southwest.   These are primarily Roman Catholic and were assimilated with the Louisiana Purchase and the aftermath of the Mexican-American War, respectively.  Although a separate terminology of "Spanish American" is commonly applied to Spanish speaking Americans, Americans that descend from Spain are more properly categorized as Euro-Americans.

The first large wave of European migration after the Revolutionary War came from Northern and Western Europe between about 1820 and 1890.  Most of these immigrants were from Ireland, Germany, and Britain, and with large numbers of Irish and German Catholics immigrating, Roman Catholicism became an important minority religion.   Their descendants are dominant in the Midwest and West, although German descent is extremely common in Pennsylvania, and Irish descent is also common in urban centers in the Northeast.  The second wave of Euro-Americans arrived from the mid-1890s to the 1920s, mainly from Southern and Eastern Europe.  This wave included Italians, Greeks, Portuguese, Poles and other Slavs, Hungarians.  With large numbers of immigrants from South and Central America, White Hispanics have increased to 8% of the US population; Texas and Florida are important centers for them.



Culture

Euro-American cultural lineage can be traced back to western Europe and is institutionalized in the form of its government, traditions, and civic education.  The Solutrean hypothesis suggested that Europeans may have been among the first in the Americas.  More recent research has argued this not to be the case and that the founding Native American population came from Siberia through Beringia.  An article in the American Journal of Human Genetics states "Here we show, by using 86 complete mitochondrial genomes, that all Native American haplo-groups, including haplo-group X, were part of a single founding population, thereby refuting multiple-migration models." Since most later Euro-Americans have assimilated into American culture, most Euro-Americans now generally express their individual ethnic ties sporadically and symbolically and do not consider their specific ethnic origins to be essential to their identity; however, Euro-American ethnic expression has been revived since the 1960s.  Southern Europeans, specifically Italians and Greeks, have maintained high levels of ethnic identity.  In the 1960s, Mexican Americans and African Americans started exploring their cultural traditions as the ideal of cultural pluralism took hold.  Euro-Americans followed suit by exploring their individual cultural origins and having less shame of expressing their unique cultural heritage.

In his 1989 book "Albion's Seed", David Hackett Fischer explores the details of the folkways of four different groups of settlers from the British Isles that came to the American colonies during the 17th and 18th centuries from distinct regions of Britain and Ireland.  His thesis is that the culture of each group persisted (albeit in modified form), providing the basis for the modern United States.

According to Fischer, the foundation of America's four regional cultures was formed from four mass migrations from four different regions of the British Isles by four distinct ethno-cultural groups.  New England's formative period occurred between 1629 and 1640 when Puritans, mostly from East Anglia in England, settled there, thus forming the basis for the New England regional culture.  The next mass migration was of southern English cavaliers and their Irish and Scottish servants to the Chesapeake Bay region between 1640 and 1675.   This spawned the creation of the American Southern culture.  Then, between 1675 and 1725, thousands of Irish, English and German Quakers, led by William Penn, settled the Delaware Valley.  This resulted in the formation of the General American culture, although, according to Fischer, this is really a "regional culture," even if it does today encompass most of the U.S. from the mid-Atlantic states to the Pacific Coast.  Finally, a huge number of Irish, Scottish and English settlers from the borderlands of Britain and Ireland migrated to Appalachia between 1717 and 1775.  This left a distinctive Keltic cultural imprint on this region, and resulted in the formation of the Upland South regional culture, which has since expanded to the west to West Texas and parts of the U.S. Southwest.

In his book, Fischer brings up several interesting points.  He states that the U.S. is not a country with one "general" culture and several "regional" culture, as is commonly thought.  Rather, there are only four regional cultures as described above, and understanding this helps one to more clearly understand American history as well as contemporary American life.  Fischer also asserts that it is not only important to understand where different groups came from, but when.  All population groups have, at different times, their own unique set of beliefs, fears, hopes and prejudices.  When different groups came to America and brought certain beliefs and values with them, these ideas became, according to Fischer, more or less frozen in time, even if they eventually changed in their original place of origin.


Pride

Most Euro-Americans take great pride in their particular country of origin, hence infrequently refer to themselves as a Euro-American but instead reference their particular nation of origin.  While being appreciative of their culture and origins, they are respectful of other cultures and others origins, and appreciate the differences as well as the similarities.  It’s the acknowledgement of the differences and the appreciation and respect for all people that propels their pride


Demographics

United States Census, 2000

Americans Reported as "White" (1790-2000)
Year Population % of the U.S. Year Population % of the U.S.
1790 3,172,006 80.7 1900 66,809,196 87.9
1800 4,306,446 81.1 1910 81,731,957 88.9
1810 5,862,073 81.0 1920 94,820,915 89.7
1820 7,866,797 81.6 1930 110,286,740 89.8 (highest)
1830 10,532,060 81.9 1940 118,214,870 89.8 (highest)
1840 14,189,705 83.2 1950 134,942,028 89.5
1850 19,553,068 84.3 1960 158,831,732 88.6
1860 26,922,537 85.6 1970 177,748,975 87.5
1870 33,589,377 87.1 1980 188,371,622 83.1
1880 43,402,970 86.5 1990 199,686,070 80.3
1890 55,101,258 87.5 2000 211,460,626 75.1 (lowest)
The vast majority of "White Americans" are of European ancestry.   Only 0.6% of the "White" population in America has their origins from a nation outside of Europe (2000).
  The chart numbers give numbers of Euro-Americans as measured by the U.S. Census in 1980, 1990, and 2000.  The numbers are measured according to declarations in census responses.  This leads to uncertainty over the real meaning of the figures: For instance, as can be seen, according to these figures, the Euro-American population dropped 40 million in ten years, but in fact this is a reflection of changing census responses.  In particular, it reflects the increased popularity of the 'American' option following its inclusion as an example in the 2000 census forms.

It is important to note that breakdowns of the Euro-American population into sub-components is a difficult and rather arbitrary exercise.  Farley (1991) argues that "because of ethnic intermarriage, the numerous generations that separate respondents from their forbears and the apparent unimportance to many whites of European origin, responses appear quite inconsistent".  In particular, a large majority of Euro-Americans have ancestry from a number of different countries and the response to a single 'ancestry' gives little indication of the backgrounds of Americans today.  
When only prompted for a single response, the examples given on the census forms and a pride in identifying the more distinctive parts of one's heritage are important factors; these will likely adversely affect the numbers reporting ancestries from the British Isles.

Multiple response ancestry data often greatly increase the numbers reporting for the main ancestry groups, although Farley goes as far to conclude that "no simple question will distinguish those who identify strongly with a specific European group from those who report symbolic or imagined ethnicity." He highlights responses in the Current Population Survey (1973) where for the main 'old' ancestry groups (e.g., German, Irish, English, and French), over 40% change their reported ancestry over the six-month period between survey waves.

An important example to note is that in 1980 23.75 million Americans claimed English ancestry and 25.85 claimed English ancestry together with one or more other.  This represents 49.6 million people.  The table below shows that in 1990 when only single and primary responses were allowed this fell to 32 million and in 2000 to 24 million.

The largest self-reported ancestries in 2000, reporting over 5 million members, were in order: German, Irish, English, American, Italian, Polish, and French.   They have different distributions within the United States; in general, the northern half of the United States from Pennsylvania westward is dominated by German ancestry, and the southern half by English and American.  Irish may be found throughout the entire country.  Italian ancestry is most common in the Northeast, Polish in the Great Lakes Region, and French in New England and Louisiana.  U.S. Census Bureau statisticians estimate that approximately 62 percent of Euro-Americans today are either wholly or partly of English, Welsh, Irish, or Scottish ancestry.  Approximately 86% of Euro-Americans today are of northwestern European ancestry, while 14% are of southern and eastern European descent.

 

European Ancestries in the United States

Euro-American Ancestries in the 2000 U.S. Census
Ancestry 1980 % of U.S.
1980
1990 % of U.S.
1990
2000 % of U.S.
2000
Change
1990 to 2000
Albania   Albanian 38,658 0.02% 47,710 0.02% 113,661 0.04% +138.2%
United States   American no data no data 12,395,999 5.0% 20,188,305 7.2% +62.9%
Armenia   Armenian 212,621 0.11% 308,096 0.1% 385,488 0.1% +25.1%
Austria   Austrian 948,558 0.50% 864,783 0.3% 730,336 0.3% -15.5%
Basque Country (autonomous community)   Basque 43,140 0.02% 47,956 0.02% 57,793 0.02% +20.5%
Belgium   Belgian 360,277 0.19% 380,403 0.2% 348,531 0.1% -08.4%
United Kingdom   British ? ? 1,119,140 0.4% 1,085,718 0.4% -03.0%
Bulgaria   Bulgarian 42,504 0.02% 29,595 0.01% 55,489 0.02% +87.5%
Croatia   Croatian 252,970 0.13% 544,270 0.2% 374,241 0.1% -31.2%
Czech Republic   Czech 1,892,456 1.01% 1,296,369 0.5% 1,258,452 0.4% -02.9%
Denmark   Danish 1,518,273 0.81% 1,634,648 0.7% 1,430,897 0.5% -12.5%
Netherlands   Dutch 6,304,499 3.35% 6,226,339 2.5% 4,541,770 1.6% -27.1%
England   English 49,598,035 26.34% 32,651,788 13.1% 24,509,692 8.7% -24.9%
Estonia   Estonian 25,994 0.01% 26,762 0.01% 25,034 0.01% -06.5%
Finland   Finnish 615,872 0.33% 658,854 0.3% 623,559 0.2% -05.4%
France   French 12,892,246 6.85% 10,320,656 4.1% 8,309,666 3% -19.5%
Germany   German 49,224,146 26.14% 57,947,171 23.3% 42,841,569 15.2% -26.1%
Greece   Greek 959,856 0.51% 1,110,292 0.4% 1,153,295 0.4% +03.9%
Hungary   Hungarian 1,776,902 0.94% 1,582,302 0.6% 1,398,702 0.5% -11.6%
Iceland   Icelandic 32,586 0.02% 40,529 0.02% 42,716 0.02% +05.4%
Republic of Ireland   Irish 40,165,702 21.33% 38,735,539 15.6% 30,524,799 10.8% -21.2%
Italy   Italian 12,183,692 6.47% 14,664,189 5.9% 15,638,348 5.6% +06.6%
Latvia   Latvian 92,141 0.05% 100,331 0.04% 87,564 0.03% -12.7%
Lithuania   Lithuanian 742,776 0.39% 811,865 0.3% 659,992 0.2% -18.7%
Malta   Maltese 31,645 0.02% 39,600 0.02% 40,159 0.01% +01.4%
Norway   Norwegian 3,453,839 1.83% 3,869,395 1.6% 4,477,725 1.6% +15.7%
Poland   Polish 8,228,037 4.37% 9,366,051 3.8% 8,977,235 3.2% -04.2%
Portugal   Portuguese 1,024,351 0.54% 1,148,857 0.5% 1,173,691 0.4% +02.2%
Romania   Romanian 315,258 0.17% 365,531 0.1% 367,278 0.1% +0.5%
Russia   Russian 2,781,432 1.48% 2,951,373 1.2% 2,652,214 0.9% -10.1%
Ulster   Scots-Irish 16,418 0.01% 5,617,773 2.3% 4,319,232 1.5% -23.1%
Scotland   Scottish 10,048,816 5.34% 5,393,581 2.2% 4,890,581 1.7% -09.3%
Serbia   Serbian 100,941 0.05% 116,795 0.05% 140,337 0.05% +0.2%
Slovakia   Slovak 776,806 0.41% 1,882,897 0.8% 797,764 0.3% -57.6%
Slovenia   Slovene 126,463 0.07% 124,437 0.1% 176,691 0.1% +42%
Spain   Spanish 94,528 0.05% 360,858 0.1% 299,948 0.1% -16.9%
Sweden   Swedish 4,345,392 2.31% 4,680,863 1.9% 3,998,310 1.4% -14.6%
Switzerland   Swiss 981,543 0.52% 1,045,492 0.4% 911,502 0.3% -12.8%
Ukraine   Ukrainian 730,056 0.39% 740,723 0.3% 892,922 0.3% +20.5%
Wales   Welsh 1,664,598 0.88% 2,033,893 0.8% 1,753,794 0.6% -13.8%
Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia   Yugoslavian ? ? ? ? 328,547 0.1% ?
Total 150,227,658 79.78% 210,181,975 84.2% 171,801,940 60.7% -18.3%



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