Cover: America Classifies the Immigrants: From Ellis Island to the 2020 Census, from Harvard University PressCover: America Classifies the Immigrants in HARDCOVER

America Classifies the Immigrants

From Ellis Island to the 2020 Census

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Product Details


$46.50 • £37.95 • €42.00

ISBN 9780674425057

Publication Date: 03/26/2018


464 pages

6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

1 line illustration, 2 tables


A cogent and compelling analysis of the muddle of meanings embedded in the terms race, peoples, national origins, and mother tongue as used by scholars, politicians, and administrators in the Bureau of Immigration and the U.S. Census Bureau.—Glenn C. Altschuler, Forward

Perlmann provides us with a brilliant historical account of how Southern and Eastern Europeans, particularly Jews, were thought about, classified, and rendered legible by the state.—Michael Omi, American Journal of Sociology

Perlmann has written a work of deep erudition, impressive for its temporal scope but no less because breadth does not come at the expense of a fine-grained account of governmental classificatory practices… It is meticulously written, clear, and provocative—a book not to be missed.—David Cook-Martin, International Migration Review

We can learn a lot from [this] book about how conflicting agendas, behemoth ambitions, and unwarranted optimism produced classification schemes that negatively affected the lives of millions of Americans and would-be immigrants. We might do well to pair that knowledge with a stronger sense of humility than our forbearers held as we move forward in our own research.—Jessica H. Lee, Journal of Urban History

A readable and sophisticated discussion of the context of social science thinking about race, ethnicity, and national origins for official statistics on immigrant origins… A panoramic survey. It is a deeply researched and captivating book… Provides rich insights into the ways in which immigrants have been classified in America.—Barry Edmonston, Population and Development Review

An insightful examination of how the U.S. adopted and revised categories of immigrants over almost 150 years… Well researched and lucidly presented.Choice

A work of exacting scholarship and exemplary good sense. Perlmann illuminates as no other scholar has the process by which Americans decided how to classify immigrants. His account offers a much richer and more complex picture of the story than is found in any other work of historical writing.—David A. Hollinger, author of Postethnic America

Perlmann transforms our understanding of the history of government efforts to racially classify immigrants to the United States. He unearths a number of fascinating discoveries about a history that many thought was already well-known. His book will be essential reading for all serious scholars of immigration.—Mara Loveman, author of National Colors

We cannot understand America unless we understand race and immigration. To truly comprehend how these two histories overlap and intertwine, we need look no further than the United States government’s struggle to define, categorize, and count immigrants and members of racial and ethnic groups. It is Perlmann’s brilliant achievement to take what has too often been written as separate stories and tell it as one still unfinished story.—Kenneth Prewitt, former Director of the United States Census Bureau, 1998–2000, and author of What Is Your Race?

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