Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Ethnic America: A History” as Want to Read:
Ethnic America: A History
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Ethnic America: A History

4.30  ·  Rating details ·  629 ratings  ·  79 reviews
This classic work by the distinguished economist traces the history of nine American ethnic groups -- the Irish, Germans, Jews, Italians, Chinese, African-Americans, Puerto Ricans, and Mexicans.
Paperback, 353 pages
Published March 21st 1983 by Basic Books (first published January 1st 1975)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Ethnic America, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Ethnic America

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.30  · 
Rating details
 ·  629 ratings  ·  79 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Ethnic America: A History
Rob Altemare
May 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Excellent read. How can a guy take such deep and specific technical data and weave it into a fascinating story? Thomas Sowell is one of the most brilliant men in America. Even back in 1986 (or thereabouts) when this story was written, he's already honed his unique ability to make hard data completely fascinating. Amazing!
Aug 02, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Each immigrant group has changed in America, and American society has changed in many ways. The most dramatic example is that today there are people sitting in Congress and on the Supreme Court whose ancestors were brought here as slaves. Among the world's leading scientific, political, and economic figures today are Americans whose immigrant ancestors were once dismissed as 'the beaten men of beaten races.' Nothing has so vindicated the untapped potential of ordinary people as the American expe ...more
Guixin Jiang
Feb 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I have read this after I studied overseas in the United States for 2 years. Before my coming to the USA, I barely have the idea of how the concept "ethnic" could virtually impact how people behave, how they communicate, and how they like each other. After all, I live in a society (China) where I have compatriots, namely the same ethnic, for over a billion people! We speak the same language, share the same culture and civilization, have the same expectation of others' behavior and therefore, nev ...more
Jan 16, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Ethnic America is a unique portrait of the great American ethic mosaic. Thomas Sowell relates the history of immigrants from Europe, Asia, Africa, and Latin America, and how this history was unique for each group. Within the larger geographic groups he identifies specific ethnic groups that include Irish, German, Chinese, Japanese, Puerto Ricans, Blacks, and others. He analyzes each group providing background context and the results of their success or lack of success in integrating and becoming ...more
Alex Zakharov
Oct 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
A great short history of immigration into America – Sowell covers all the major immigration groups including Irish, Germans, Blacks, Jews, Italians, Chinese, Japanese, Puerto Ricans, and Mexicans. What I found interesting is how Sowell treats immigration almost as an evolutionary study of adaptability of various cultures to the host country. Each culture with its own unique history and set of values has its own way of integrating (or not integrating) and adapting to the new homeland. And yes, cu ...more
Apr 16, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Scott Lind
This is another 5 star book from Thomas Sowell.
Sowell writes about ethnic groups in America. He dedicates a chapter to the Irish, Germans, Jews Italians Chinese, Japanese, Blacks, Puerto-ricans, and Mexicans. He illuminates how differences in behavior are best explained by the cultures and values of these ethnic groups. The immediate environment which included hardships and discrimination seems to have little influence on the behavior of these groups.

Sowell's writing does not sugarcoat the issu
Jim B
Aug 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
Sowell's tracing the history of assimilation of nine American ethnic groups (Irish, German, Jewish, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, Blacks--slave and later free, Puero Rican, and Mexican) helps the reader understand the cycle of large groups from a nationality arriving and adapting in America. Every American should read this book in order to discuss immigration or to ponder the race issue in America.
Michael Perkins
Mar 03, 2014 rated it it was ok
I am reading this book by Hans Rosling and I now see it calls into question the accuracy of this book. Too many generalizations and the false notion that the past is prologue to more of the same.

Also true of "The Fate of Africa" by Martin Meredith.
Sylvester Kuo
Sep 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: economics, history
Ethnic America is an examination of how well the 7 major groups of American immigrants are doing relatively. It was a nice read, particularly the chapters on the Japanese, Puerto Ricans and the Easter European Jews.
Giulia Paris
Jan 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
Wow, it is amazing how just every ethnic cluster mentioned in he book suffered when they first came here. I feel like the boook might have been a bit biased like against the irish, but otherwise it is very engaging and with many interesting statistics.
Feb 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Another great book by the most eloquent writer on economics I know of. This book was a bit dryer than his others but this is understandable as it was written much earlier.

It's full to the brim of interesting facts and information about various ethnic groups in America - Jews, the Irish, Italians, Germans, blacks, Puerto-Ricans and Mexicans (and probably others I've forgotten). It covers things like their attitudes toward education, family and work, the areas they excelled in and areas they were
Jeff G
May 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book, written in 1981, is nonetheless relevant for today. In this heavily-notated work, Thomas Sowell recounts the history and progress of a number of immigrant groups that come to America. I take a number of key points from th iswork.

Later generations tend to improve (in abilities, work, economic success and acculturation) compared to earlier generations. As Sowell states, "...the most striking pattern among American ethnic groups is their general rise in economic conditions with the pass
Apr 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Enjoyable and surprisingly fresh, even though it was published in 1981 and many of the stats are from the 1970s. Economist Sowell makes the case that though the various immigrant groups to the US endured similar challenges including poverty, lack of education, and discrimination, each brought with it attitudes and behavioral patterns shaped over centuries that influenced ways in which they adapted to their new country. Thus the Irish, unified by generations of outside oppression in Ireland, mobi ...more
Guanhong Sun
Mar 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
As a Chinese studying in Canada. This book gave me abundant information on people living in America. From the differences between ethnic groups, I understand what qualities are the driving force for people getting better life. People in different groups made great effort and struggle to have today's achievement.

As Thomas concluded as last:" No other internal problems-from alcoholism to violence-could be overcome by any group, if such things were only biased propaganda or the inevitable results o
May 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
location matters even by neighborhood, oppressive laws against Irish started in Ireland, Irish Hells Kitchen, German indentured servants bought/sold, 1902 first jewish HS grad NYC, Chinese with less than 10% divorce, Irish famine 1840’s, Feb42 FDR western US only not Hawaii Japanese Americans imprisoned in rural prison camps 300k with support of courts and aclu until late 44 overturned in courts, Jewish and Japanese excelled in US after much discrimination Chinese too and none via political acti ...more
Jan 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: american-history
Fantastic book. I have read many of Sowell’s books already, but this book taught me tons of things about America’s ethnic groups that I had never heard of previously.

Sowell emphasizes cultural differences as the primary reason for disparities between ethnic groups, as opposed to racist theories of “genetic ability” and modern theories of “oppression” and “exploitation”.

As Sowell mentions, the story of ethnic groups in America is ultimately a very human one. In other words, American ethnic histor
Mar 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
Simply fascinating, I can't imagine the amount of research this man had to go threw before publishing this. If you were ever curious as to how different ethnicity's fared on American soil look no further.
Sowell does an excellent job describing their religion, occupations, standards, cultures and even elaborating on stats about which groups voted towards left and right. This book also holds lots of neat facts that are appreciated.

The only reason I give it a 4 is because in this book, he states th
Jun 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
It always seems like an accomplishment when I finish a non-fiction book, but this one was well worth the seven weeks it took to read it. Ethnic America has some very interesting insights. Sowell analyzes several ethnic groups (Chinese, Japanese, Irish, Italian, African, Mexican, Puerto Rican, German, Jews--each group gets its own chapter) that have immigrated to the United States at various times. He discusses their background in their homeland and reasons for emigrating, how they fared and what ...more
Jan 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book was a fascinating history of the different ethnicities that make up the American landscape. This book traces back the cultural differences to their home countries and makes correlations to their triumphs and tribulations when adjusting to American life.
Thomas Sowell is one of my favorite authors on subjects like this. His writing style makes the material easy to understand. I found this book to be on par with the rest of his body of work.
What was the most interesting for me was readin
Adam Morva
Apr 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The book examines the origins, past and present of a handful of larger ethnic groups in America. Although these facts and conclusions are local to the United States, one might derive some interesting and universal conclusions about topics such as culture, society, immigration, integration, subcultures, economics, education, politics, racism, tribalism, affirmative action, and so on.

Following the differing contemporary status of groups who were in a similar situation generations ago leads to a hi
Jan 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a well researched, exceptionally written book in terms I can understand. I do believe most readers will also find it fascinating and mind opening.

To me, this book validates my belief that no one knows who will or will not "succeed," who is or is not "worthy" to be allowed entry into the U.S. All of us, all of our backgrounds and ancestors have contributed to America. Some more then others, some have been NOTICED more then others. Everyone plays a part.

Ethnic America dovetails with anothe
Jason Bailey
Jun 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I cannot recommend this book more highly!

Thomas Sowell's presentation is filled with a lot of thought provoking research that gives some much needed perspective. His analysis centers on exploring the various similarities and differences among ethnic groups that have come together and are ever in the process of coming together in the melting-pot that is America.

This is a fantastic reminder of the importance of knowing history as well as learning more about the various peoples who, as one nation
Cynthia Schmidt
Mar 19, 2017 rated it liked it
I read this book because my husband said it was one of the best books he'd ever read about the multiple cultures in America. He read it when it was first published in the 1980s. I found the statistics in it to be very dated, naturally, but what really bothered me was the mindset was very dated. Sowell went into detail about the various ethnic groups immigrating from various parts of Europe but then lumped the entire continent of Africa together. I would not recommend this book.
Aug 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
Much of modern racial and inequality discourse focuses solely on black vs white disparities. Sowell examines the experience of a wide variety of racial groups who immigrated to America, many of whom have been granted status as "white" in modern America, and how these different groups' experiences were shaped by cultural and structural factors.
Oct 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Lazzzis by: Yonghao Luo
Shelves: literature
Each group has a different story, but interestingly most of the ethnic groups share some patterns: the next generation usually has a higher education and income through education (which tells me how important higher education is).

On the other hand, it tells not just a history of ethnic groups, but also a brief history of the USA, which is composed of a number of ethnic groups: we can see how World War and World War II impacted the immigration of German, Japanese and Jews, and how the Great Depre
Augustus Nolan
Apr 01, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
damn, I took nearly one month to finish this book. Because this Chinese version is so hard to read. Is that the translater's problem? I don't know. Anyway, this book gives me a clear picture of ethic groups in America.
Daniel Beckwith
Nov 18, 2018 rated it it was ok
Eehh, this was interesting and all, but jobs just not for me... There's no take home information that I think is going to impact my life in anyway and it wasn't interesting enough to stand in its own. Guess it's just not my type of book.
Apr 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020
While parts of this book are doubtless dated, I found its overall assessment of cultural differences within American subcultures thought provoking. Sowell’s analysis of broad trends exposes commonalities that seem obvious when pointed out but which are often lost in a sea of granular data.
Gus Suarez
Sep 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Although an old book, “Ethnic America” gives a solid foundation to understand the movement, growth, difficulties and growth over the year. This is a book that could be helpful to people in ministry that are looking to teaching out to a world that continues to come to The United States.
William Kyle Spratt
Oct 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating and full of incredible details.
« previous 1 3 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Loserthink: How Untrained Brains Are Ruining America
  • The Origins of Political Order: From Prehuman Times to the French Revolution
  • Blackout: How Black America Can Make Its Second Escape from the Democrat Plantation
  • The Road to Serfdom
  • The Decadent Society: How We Became the Victims of Our Own Success
  • Stock Frauds, Manipulations & Insider Trading
  • Class: A Guide Through the American Status System
  • Milton Friedman
  • Hayek: His Contribution to the Political and Economic Thought of Our Time
  • Ludwig Von Mises: Fountainhead of the Modern Microeconomics Revolution
  • Up from Slavery
  • Ashamed of the Gospel: When the Church Becomes Like the World
  • Pay Attention, Carter Jones
  • LikeWar: The Weaponization of Social Media
  • Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai (Bunny Girl Senpai Light Novel #1)
  • Popular Lyric Writing: 10 Steps to Effective Storytelling
  • Jewish Meditation: A Practical Guide
  • Death's Acre: Inside the Legendary Forensic Lab the Body Farm Where the Dead Do Tell Tales
See similar books…
Thomas Sowell is an American economist, social commentator, and author of dozens of books. He often writes from an economically laissez-faire perspective. He is currently a senior fellow of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. In 1990, he won the Francis Boyer Award, presented by the American Enterprise Institute. In 2002 he was awarded the National Humanities Medal for prolific scholars ...more

Related Articles

If you haven't heard of record-smashing singer and songwriter Mariah Carey, is there any hope for you? Who else has sold more than 200 million...
53 likes · 22 comments
“Today, there are more people of Irish ancestry in the United States than in Ireland, more Jews than in Israel, more blacks than in most African countries. There are more people of Polish ancestry in Detroit than in most of the leading cities in Poland, and more than twice as many people of Italian ancestry in New York as in Venice.” 4 likes
“As in the general society, fertility tends to be greatest where people are poorest: “The rich get richer, and the poor have children.” In” 3 likes
More quotes…