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British American
BenFranklinDuplessis 140x190.jpgMacArthur Manila 140x190.jpg
Jm5 140x190.jpgThomas Paine 140x190.jpg
Butchcassidy 140x190.jpgJames Madison 140x190.jpg
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Notable British Americans:
Benjamin Franklin · Douglas MacArthur
James Monroe · Thomas Paine
Butch Cassidy · James Madison
Christopher Hitchens · Rick Rescorla
Total population
39,975,969 (2008) [1][2]
13.0% of the total U.S. population.
Regions with significant populations
The U.S. South, Northeast, West

American English


Mainly Protestant, and to a lesser extent Catholic

Related ethnic groups

Britons · English Americans · Scottish Americans · Scots-Irish Americans · Welsh Americans

British Americans are citizens of the United States whose ancestry originates wholly or partly in Great Britain (England, Wales and Scotland). The term is seldom used by people to refer to themselves (1,113,762 chose it in the 2008 American Community Survey) and is used primarily as a demographic or historical research term.

According to American Community Survey in 2008 data, Americans reporting British ancestry made up an estimated (39,975,969) or 13.0% of the total U.S. population,[3] and form the second largest European ancestry group after German Americans.

However, demographers regard this as an undercount as the index of inconsistency is high, and many, if not most, people from English, Scottish, Scots-Irish and Welsh stock have a tendency to identify simply as Americans[4][5][6][7] or, if of mixed European ancestry, nominate a more recent and differentiated ethnic group.[8] Consequently, most white Americans have at least some British ancestry, including many who identify primarily with other ethnic groups (such as Irish, German, Scandinavian, Italian, and so forth).

In the 1980 United States Census, over 61 million (61,311,449) Americans claimed British ancestry, at the time around 32.56% of the total population and largest reported group which, even today, would make them the largest ethnic group in the United States. This outnumbered the population of Great Britain at the time.[9][10]




Early settlement and colonization

British Americans have English, Scottish, Ulster Scots, and/or Welsh family heritages, or came from Canada where their ancestors were of British descent, and are those Americans who were British born. Catholic Irish-Americans are not usually categorized as having British ancestry; they do not usually consider themselves as being British Americans.[citation needed] Immigrants from Canada of British ancestry tend to call themselves Canadian Americans. Similarly, most British Americans tend to differentiate to being specifically English, Northern Irish, Irish, Scottish, Welsh or ethnic minorities (eg. Pakistani Scottish) and do not identify with the UK as a whole, therefore tending not to refer to themselves as British American (see: English American, Scottish American, Welsh American, or Scots-Irish American) and settlers of British heritage from other former British territories like Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa also consider themselves by their nationalities, Australian Americans, New Zealand Americans, South African-Americans, like those with British citizenship would identify themselves as British-American.

1790 U.S Ancestry
Based on Evaluated census figures [11]
2000 U.S Ancestry
from the official U.S census [11]
Ancestry group Number
(1790 estimate)
% of
Ancestry Number
(2000 count)
% of
British (Total) 2,500,000 62.5 British (Total)
36,564,465 12.9
English 1,900,000 47.5 German 42,885,162 15.2
African 750,000 19.0 African 36,419,434 12.9
Scotch-Irish 320,000 8.0 Irish 30,594,130 10.9
German 280,000 7.0 English 24,515,138 8.7
Irish 200,000 5.0 Mexican 20,640,711 7.3
Scottish 160,000 4.0 Italian 15,723,555 5.6
Welsh 120,000 3.0 French 10,846,018 3.9
Dutch 100,000 2.5 Hispanic 10,017,244 3.6
French 80,000 2.0 Polish 8,977,444 3.2
Native American 50,000 1.0 Scottish 4,890,581 1.7
Spanish 20,000 0.5 Dutch 4,542,494 1.6
Swedish or other 20,000 0.5 Norwegian 4,477,725 1.6
Total 3,929,326 [12] 100 Scotch-Irish 4,319,232 1.5

Number of British Americans

1980 U.S Census

The Twentieth 1980 United States Census, 61.3 million (61,311,449) Americans reported British ancestry.
The total U.S population in 1980 was 226,545,805 and was the first census-form that asked peoples ancestry.[13]

These include: In 1980, the total census reported that British ancestry was (32.56%) of the total U.S population.

Triple ancestry response:English-Irish-Scotch: 897,316 There are no concrete figures for the Scots-Irish and some group responses were undercounted, but in 1980, 29,828,349 people claimed Irish and another ethnic ancestry. These figures make British Americans the largest "ethnic" groups in the U.S. and would have natuarally increased in population with more people of British origin than in 1980. When counted collectively (the Census Bureau does give the choice to count them collectively as one ancestry, and also count them in a separate ethnic group, that is English, Scottish, Welsh or Scots-Irish). In 2000, Germans and Irish were the largest self-reported ethnic groups in the nation.

1990 U.S Census

The Twenty-first 1990 United States Census.[14]

2000 U.S Census

The Twenty-Second 2000 United States Census, 36.4 million Americans reported British ancestry.[15]

Most of the population who stated their ancestry as "American" are said to be of old colonial British stock.

Ancestry 1980 % of U.S 1990 % of U.S 2000 % of U.S
English 49,598,035 26.34% 32,651,788 13.1% 24,515,138 8.7%
Scottish 10,048,816 5.34% 5,393,581 2.2% 4,890,581 1.7%
Scots-Irish no data no data 5,617,773 2.3% 4,319,232 1.5%
Welsh 1,664,598 0.88% 2,033,893 0.8% 1,753,794 0.6%
British no data no data no data no data 1,085,720 0.4%
American no data no data 12,395,999 5.0% 20,625,093 7.3%

British ancestry maps

Dark red and brown colors indicate a higher density. (see also Maps of American ancestries).

See also


  1. ^ Total British ancestry reorted as a collective group.
  2. ^ British-American ancestry ACS 2008.
  3. ^ British-American ancestry ACS 2008.
  4. ^ Sharing the Dream: White Males in a Multicultural AmericaBy Dominic J. Pulera.
  5. ^ Farley, Reynolds (1991), "The New Census Question about Ancestry: What Did It Tell Us?", Demography 28 (3): 414, 421 .
  6. ^ Lieberson, Stanley & Santi, Lawrence (1985), "The Use of Nativity Data to Estimate Ethnic Characteristics and Patterns", Social Science Research 14 (1): 44–46 .
  7. ^ Lieberson, Stanley & Waters, Mary C. (1986), "Ethnic Groups in Flux: The Changing Ethnic Responses of American Whites", Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 487 (79): 82–86 .
  8. ^ Waters, Mary C. (1990), Ethnic Options: Choosing Identities in America, Berkeley: University of California Press, p. 36, ISBN 0520068564 .
  9. ^ Data on selected ancestry groups.
  10. ^ 1980 United States Census
  11. ^ a b The Source: Gen
  12. ^ U.S 1790 Census
  13. ^ United States 1980 Census
  14. ^ United States 1990 Census
  15. ^ "Ancestry: 2000". United States Government. June 2004. 

Scholarly sources

  • Oscar Handlin, Ann Orlov and Stephan Thernstrom eds. Harvard Encyclopedia of American Ethnic Groups (1980) the standard reference source for all ethnic groups.
  • Rowland Tappan Berthoff. British Immigrants in Industrial America, 1790-1950 (1953).
  • David Hackett Fischer. Albion's Seed, Four British Folkways In America (1989).

External links


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