After the First World War, two factors drastically changed how Eastern Europeans might migrate to America: first, new geopolitical borders in the region, outlined in the Paris Settlement treaties; and second, restrictive immigration legislation in the United States. The Paris Settlement treaties shuffled and redefined the states that individuals lived in an might migrate from; new U.S. quotas applied to individuals from these newly defined states based on nationality and place-of-origin data referring to the Austro-Hungarian Empire from the 1910 and 1890 censuses. With no such states in existence at the time, Census Bureau officials were forced to admit before Congress that the quotas were mere “guesswork.” Numerous historians have studied the effects of the break up of Austria-Hungary and the effects of U.S. quotas on East European migration separately, but have not explained the effects that these two major post-war developments had on transatlantic migration together. It is a curious oversight, as the combination of new state borders and quotas were of huge significance for many would-be emigrants and return migrants. The Census Bureau’s changing categories of nationality in the late nineteenth century thus had profound consequences for migrants from former Austria-Hungary in the post-war era.
Kristina E. Poznan, PhD, is a scholar of American migration and foreign relations history. Her work examines the relationship between transatlantic migration, migrant identities, and separatist nationalism in the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in the context of migration to the United States. From 2017 to 2019 she was editor of Journal of Austrian-American History, sponsored by the Botstiber Institute for Austrian-American Studies and published by Penn State University Press. She is currently the managing editor of the Journal of Slavery and Data Preservation, the journal of Enslaved.org. She is at work on a book manuscript, “Migrant Nation Builders: The Politics of Mobility from the Austro-Hungarian Empire to the United States, 1880s-1920s,” and an interactive map of sites related to Mark Twain during the two years he lived in Vienna.