Wednesday, January 10, 2007

People think that Americans of English descent have done the most for the country: The General Social Survey asked close to 1,000 Americans how much different ethnic groups have positively contributed to our society. The lists of countries the interviewers chose to include (shown below) is strange and was designed, I'm sure, to study prejudice and not achievement. But here are the results anyway:

Percent of Americans who say the ethnic group has made the biggest positive contribution (own group's view in parentheses):

English 31.0 (50.0)
Jews 12.1 (26.5)
Blacks 9.5 (29.7)
Irish 9.0 (15.7)
Japanese 8.9
Italians 8.1 (14.0)
Mexicans 4.3 (4.5)
Muslims 3.0
Puerto Ricans 2.9
Vietnamese 2.8
Cubans 2.5

The poor Germans who are only the largest ethnic group and have been here forever don't even make the list. I honestly don't know where many of these people are getting their answers from: you might think people say their own group is the best, but most of the time this is not the case. The percent saying their own group has done the most is in parentheses, and while the numbers are a larger than what all Americans together think, they're not not that much bigger.


  1. Germans are the largest group that identify themselfs as having a certain ancstory, but they are almost certainly not the largest group.

    About 40% of the white gene pool should be english, although more spread than everyone else.

  2. tino_g: What you say is plausible, but can you provide a reference?

  3. Campbell Gibson estimates that 49% of America's 1990 population was descended from 1790 populations.

    I used the share of English in that population (don't have figures in front of me, I think in the 60% range, inkluding Africans).

  4. I admire Mexican-American realism about Mexican contributions to American -- they were the only group that didn't rate themselves more highly than the rest of the people in the survey rated them.

  5. Anonymous7:51 AM

    Is there a link to the full results?

  6. Anon: What you see is the full results. On this blog, I present my analysis of survey data.

  7. In 1790 (and up to 1830) UK folks were 90% of the European population and 72% of everyone, including blacks according to:

    Wikipedia: Immigration to the United States


    The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy by Kory L. Meyerink and Loretto Dennis Szucs

    US Population 1790

    England 2,100,100
    Scot-Irish 300,000
    Scotland 150,000
    Wales 10,000
    Other* 200,000 * mostly English
    ----------------------------- %European %All
    UK 2,760,000 90.0 72.4
    Germany 270,000 8.8 7.1
    Netherland 6,000 0.2 0.15
    France 15,000 0.6 0.39
    Jews 2,000 0.07 0.05
    Sweden 2,000 0.07 0.05

  8. Evidently, English ancestry goes back so far, or is so much like water is to fish, that people underreport it.

  9. It is interesting that the group that overestimates its contribution the most is Blacks. I find that their position is often the most divergent from the averages on many other issues as well...

  10. Most Black people errantly equate the pain and suffering of slavery with contribution to this country's l-t economic success. The greater truth is that the slave trade was very profitable, while the businesses that used them were marginal. This is similar to what happened in the CA gold rush. Gold mining commerce yielded much greater fortune than found gold.

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  13. Anonymous1:06 PM

    The reference above to the 1790 U.S. population having 300,000 Scots-Irish, and apparently, no Irish, is patently inaccurate. According to the Harvard Encyclopedia of American Ethnic Groups (considered an authoritative and definitive source on this subject), in the year 1790, out a white population of 3.1 million, there were 400,000 Americans of Irish birth or ancestry, half descended from Ulster, and half from the other provinces of Ireland.

  14. The comment above that 300,000 Americans in 1790 were Scots-Irish, and, apparently, there were no "Irish," is inaccurate. Accoding to the Harvard Encyclopedia on American Ethnic Groups (considered an authorittative and definitive source on this subject), in 1790, out of a white population of 3.1 million, there were 400,000 Americans of Irish birth or ancestry, and that, of this group, half was descended from Ulster, and half from the other provinces of Ireland.

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