Immigration – How does Germany Compare to the US?

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Immigration – How does Germany Compare to the US?

In a 2014 OECD ranking, Germany was the second most popular migration destination in the world, just after the United States. But how does Germany compare to the US in term of immigration?

The United States is on the campaign trail and the Republican candidate has demonstrated great xenophobia. Yet 43 million or 13.1% of Americans are a product of immigration.

In 1910, Germany was the top birth nationality among US immigrants. The United States is very much still the Promised Land, and today almost 50 million Americans claim to have German origins.

But did you know that immigrants make up 10% of the German population? Or that one German in five has a foreign heritage?

Who are the Immigrants in Germany?

The First Wave of Immigration – 12 Million Repatriated After WWII

After its defeat in the Second World War, Germany lost a lot of territory. The first wave of immigration came from the territories that now form much of today’s Poland.

German territories lost after both World Wars
German territories lost after both World Wars are shown in black, present-day Germany is marked dark grey.

What was different about them? They were classified as immigrants in the statistics even though they belonged to a separate group. In fact they were actually “Aussiedler”, a German term used to describe repatriated ethnic Germans from Eastern Europe. At the end of the war, 12 million people took refuge in Germany.

The Second Wave – 4 Million Economic Immigrants in the 1960s

During the German economic miracle of the 1960s, 4 million people entered the country to work in its metallurgical factories, the automotive industry and its coal mines. During that time, immigrants came from Turkey, Greece, Portugal and Yugoslavia.

The Third Wave – 1.1 Million after the End of the Cold War

Between 1988 and 2000, some 1.1 million ethnic Germans came back to Germany. These were delayed resettlers, finally able to leave the Warsaw Pact countries after the fall of the Berlin Wall. In Germany, they are called the “Spät-Aussiedler”.

The Fourth Wave – 1.1 million Asylum Seekers from the Middle East and Other Countries

The civil war in Syria has forced millions to leave their country. In 2014 and 2015, many took the Balkan route to reach Western Europe. Nationals from other countries fleeing the Islamic State, the Taliban or for economic reasons joined them. In 2015, Germany welcomed 1.1 million refugees.

Immigration - How does Germany compare to the US?

Requests in 2015 for asylum in the member states of the European Union and the entire European Free Trade Association, according to Eurostat. Source: Wikipedia

Origin of the immigration in Germany
Origin of the immigration in Germany

Immigration in Germany Today

– In 2015, one German in five has an immigration background
– 8.2 million people are immigrants, which is 10.1% of the population. By comparison, the United States has 13.1%.
– Before the 2015 migration crisis, most immigrants came from the European Union.
– Over the years, immigrants in Germany come mostly from Turkey, Poland and Italy.

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  • Facts, information, statistics.. I like it!
    I have been living in Germany for my hole live. So I can’t say anything about the US. I just can say that it’s true that refugees could easily come into the country. Now it has changed.. Of course there are a lot of different opinions concerning refugees or immigrants in general, also because of the high rate of crimes. Nevertheless Germany is a very save country and also a country in wich nearly everybody treats each other equal. I really enjoy living here…

  • I was born in the US, grew up in Germany until my early twenties and have now lived longer in the US than in Germany….and I love it! When I go back to Germany to visit family and friends, I get home-sick after two weeks!

    I have been “americanized” and I am proud of it!

    The difference between immigrating to Germany vs. the US is significant! Particularly looking at the last few years, the correct term for people coming to Germany should be “migration” NOT immigration. Germany always has been the economical powerhouse in Europe, but more importantly, is known for a rather “thick” social blanket, everybody wants to be covered under. That means, free housing, food and living expenses covered and provided for. There is a reason why the masses of refugees did not stop in four or five different countries before crossing the non-existing border to Germany…..

    What you and others perceive as open racism, is a frustration of Germans with their government allowing those circumstances to fester and get out of hand. It does not justify their actions, but 90 % of illegal attacks in Germany over the last 18 months originate from individuals or groups of people that have no interest in becoming part of Germany’s heritage or what it provides to them. The citizens are sick and tired of people that get everything for free and then slap the same hand that provided everything to them in the first place!

    We have been lucky in the US, for the most part, when it comes to immigration, at least the legal process of people coming to this country to better themselves and contributing to our heritage and values. America is still the country of opportunity if you want it to be, regardless of perceived “xenophobia”, which is nothing more than preserving our way of live and our values that got us to where we are in the first place.

    I could legally live and work in Germany, but realistically, you could not pay me enough to every go back and I think that pretty much speaks for itself.

    • Thank you Kris for this smart comment, and welcome to the blog!
      There is no free housing, free food etc in Germany but I guess you mean that the social welfare covers far more than what we know here in the States.
      German’s migrants from the last two years are probably comparable to illegal immigration in the States?
      I look forward to reading from you!

  • very informative. i think Germany’s strong social and econimic success has made it such a desired destination country for immigrants. having immigrated to both Germany AND the US, i can attest that rhe difference lies in the opportunities one can take on in life. i was given greater opportunities for self actualization in the US than in Germany where i was subject to rejection and open racism. and i still call Frankfurt home but wouldn’t claim the entire country.

    Hissi Isabali Alem commented first this post on Linkedin, then authorized the reproduction in the blog

    • Thank you Hissi Isabali for sharing your experience. Yes, I also saw open racism in Germany (and in France). And I agree that opportunities in the States are given to anybody.

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