The 1800’s in the United States were a turbulent time in terms of population. A huge influx of immigrants were arriving in urban centers of the U.S. near-constantly from the start of the 19th century until the 1860’s. There are several theories of immigration that could potentially explain why immigration to the United States saw such an upswing at the time. These include push-pull factors, progressive line theory, micro burst theory, and ideological theories.
In Unwanted: Immigration and Nativism in America, Peter Schrag explains some of the factors that created the immigration boom of the 1800’s. He includes push-pull theory, which can be illustrated through an examination of Chinese immigrants to the U.S. during this time. Immigrants from China were incentivized or “pulled” to America by the myth of the American dream and the short-lived Gold Rush. On the other hand, the working-class Chinese were being “pushed” out of China by extreme poverty and negligence by the Chinese government. Progressive line theory can also be applied and illustrated through this population, for as Chinese communities in the U.S. began to grow, more and more Chinese became aware and amenable to the idea of immigration. The micro burst theory also applies here, as the Gold Rush created a boom of immigration that in turn opened the gates for Chinese immigrants to continue coming to the U.S. Ideological theory-wise, it could be said that the “American dream” of financial success (or at least stability) and social freedom was indeed the ideology that led to the massive wave of immigration from the early to mid-1800s.

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  • Schrag, Peter. “Unwanted: Immigration and Nativism in America.” Unwanted: Immigration and Nativism in America. Web. 20 Apr. 2016.