Growing populations, land shortages, and rigid political and social systems prompted many northern Europeans to immigrate to Minnesota during the nineteenth century. The state was made especially attractive to European immigrants by the availability of cheap land under the federal Homestead Act of 1862. The late twentieth century, however, saw the arrival of immigrants from other parts of the world.

Minnesota is well known for its many residents of Scandinavian ancestry. Scandinavian immigration began during the nineteenth century, when Swedish immigrants;MinnesotaSweden and Norwegian immigrants;MinnesotaNorway were experiencing rapid population growth and began sending emigrants to North America. Both countries had limited arable land, and rich farmland could be purchased cheaply in Minnesota, making the midwestern territory, and later state, an attractive destination for settlement. Persecution by Sweden’s state Lutheran church and the country’s military draft were additional incentives for emigration.MinnesotaMinnesota[cat]STATES;Minnesota[03540]

Norwegians moved to Minnesota for the same economic and demographic reasons as the Swedes. Another factor contributing to Norwegian emigration was the country’s rigid class system, which limited voting to members of the upper classes.

Minnesota also attracted many German immigrants who shared the Scandinavians’ quest for cheap farmland. German immigration was also fueled by the failed revolutions of 1830 and 1848. Other midwestern states absorbed most of the German immigrants, but many of the immigrants settled in southern Minnesota. Smaller numbers settled in northern parts of the state.

Late Twentieth Century

By 1990 the largest immigrant groups in Minnesota were Latin Americans and Hmong immigrants;MinnesotaHmong from Southeast Asia, Both groups were part of a surge in immigration that began during the late 1970’s. Financial and agricultural crises brought Mexicans to Minnesota. Between 1990 and 2000. the numbers of Latinos in Minnesota tripled to 143,382. By 2004 the Minnesota State Demographic Center estimated the state’s Latino population at about 175,000.

Minnesota monthly newspaper serving two of the state’s immigrant communities with articles in English, Spanish, and Somali.

(AP/Wide World Photos)

The Hmong are a non-Vietnamese people from Laos and Vietnam who sided with the United States during the Vietnam War and afterward became political refugees. The approximately 60,000 Hmong living in Minnesota in 2004 made Minnesota home to the largest number of Hmong in the United States. The state also had about 25,000 ethnic Vietnamese residents, along with smaller numbers of immigrants from Laos, Burma, and Cambodia.

World events also brought other nationalities to Minnesota. For example, during the 1990’s, the collapse of the Soviet Union brought many Russians to Minnesota, and the civil wars following the breakup of Yugoslavia brought Bosnian immigrantsBosnian refugees. In 2002, the collapse of the government in Somali immigrants;MinnesotaSomalia brought a surge of Somalis to the state. Minnesota’s need for high-tech workers also brought immigrants from Asian Indian immigrants;MinnesotaIndia, Pakistani immigrants;MinnesotaPakistan, and China.

The influence of Scandinavian immigrants has remained evident in the varieties of English spoken in Minnesota. The 1996 motion picture Fargo satirizes Scandinavian accents in the state. In one scene, a young Minnesota man of apparent Asian ancestry enters a restaurant in Minneapolis. When he speaks, he uses a strong Scandinavian accent exactly like that of the modern descendants of Minnesota’s early Swedish and Norwegian immigrants.Minnesota

Further Reading

  • Blegen, Theodore C. Minnesota: A History of the State. St. Paul: University of Minnesota Press, 1963.
  • Lass, William E. Minnesota: A History. New York: W. W. Norton, 1998.
  • Nelson, Helge. The Swedes and Swedish Settlements in North America. 1943. Reprint. New York: Arno Press, 1979.
  • Nordstrom, Byron, ed. The Swedes in Minnesota. Minneapolis: T. S. Denison, 1976.

German immigrants

Hmong immigrants

Homestead Act of 1862

Language issues

Linguistic contributions

Mexican immigrants