The Polish-American community in the United States is one of the largest and most established ethnic groups in the country with its roots going back to the early settlements of Jamestown, Virginia in 1608 and continuing through today.
Between 2000 and 2005, the Polish community in the United States grew by nine percent, or one million individuals, and is now 10 million members strong. It is the largest ethnic group from Eastern Europe and the third largest from Europe after Irish and Italians.
Top 12 states with the highest population of Polish-Americans:
1. New York – 1,997,987
2. Illinois - 995,445
3. Michigan - 919,007
4. Pennsylvania - 885,218
5. New Jersey - 572,918
6. Wisconsin - 533,787
7. California - 530,733
8. Florida - 523,167
9. Ohio - 474,569
10. Massachusetts - 325,663
11. Connecticut - 303,047
12. Minnesota - 265,706
During the 20th century, most of the immigrants to the U.S. from Poland settled in industrial areas where they found abundant employment opportunities. The largest Polish communities include: Chicago, New York, New Jersey, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.
Over the last two decades, demographic statistics have revealed an internal migration of Polish-Americans, many of whom abandoned the industrial northeast and moved south and west due to attractive real estate markets, climate and business opportunities. Not surprisingly, states which have denoted the largest increase in Polish populations over the last 5 - 10 years include:
Current Migration Patterns
Poles continue to come into the Chicago area in large numbers; 125,230 non-immigrants admitted in year 1999, according to the INS. Poles are coming through family reunification provisions and the visa lottery. Some come because they have special employment skills. The lottery has resulted in an overwhelming outpouring of applications from Poles especially because it is possible for people already in the U.S. to change their status if chosen in the lottery.
Polish application for citizenship is high; 13,127 persons were naturalized in 1999, according to the INS., and it appears that few are returning to Poland.
The first wave of Polish immigrants never had the intention of being permanent residents, but after World War I, a return was out of the question. Most of Polish immigrants came here as artisans, money lenders and merchants.
Today, many have taken to professional and technical fields. They have also taken to entrepreneur lifestyles running small businesses (i.e. grocery store).
Median income of a family is $61,635
Median value of a housing unit is $137,300
88% are high school graduates
33% have a bachelor’s degree or higher
Polish Americans are predominantly Roman Catholics with Protestant, Eastern Orthodox and other minorities.
Over 667,414 of Americans ages five and up reported that Polish was a language spoken at home.
With strong ties to their Roman Catholic roots, Polish Americans constructed cathedrals in the Great Lakes region of the United States.
Due to strong Anti-Polonius in the 19th and early 20th century, the Polish American community has held strong to their ethnic roots. The Polish wedding ceremony was just one of these evident cultural anchors. Today these ceremonies, though still important, do not hold the same value. This is in part due to the decrease of Anti- Polonius in America.
The Polish community has the highest percentage of home owners within Chicago land, proving both its purchasing potential and its growing needs.
Chicago specific facts
Over 300,000 Chicago land residents speak only Polish. For an additional half-million, Polish is the preferred language.
The political and economic immigration has brought to the United States thousands of highly qualified and educated Polish people.
According to Professor Andrew Greely (University of Chicago) and Professor Thomas Sowell (UCLA), the average income of the Polish family exceeds the United States average income by 15%.
It is estimated that the number of Polish-owned businesses has increased by approximately 650% since 1980.