Ethnic Groups
Irish Clam Diggers On A Wharf In Boston, 1882. Courtesy Of The National Archives.


Historically the region’s largest ethnic group, the Irish have been coming to Boston since the early 19th century. They have arguably transformed and left their mark on the city like no other.



With its proximity to both Quebec and the Maritime provinces, Massachusetts attracted more Canadian immigrants than any other state, with many coming to the Boston area.

Passover Seder Provided By The Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society For New Arrivals At The East Boston Immigration Station, 1921. Photograph By Permission Of The American Jewish Historical Society-New England Archives, Boston, MA.


Jews from central and eastern Europe and Russia have come to Boston in multiple waves since the 1840s. Religion has helped shape both their economic and cultural life in the region.

Italian Americans


Since the 1880s, Italians have been flocking to Boston, settling in both the city and surrounding communities. They were one of the largest ethnic groups of the second wave migration.

9 Hudson Port Society Crop


Coming mainly from the Azores, Portuguese immigrants have been settling in Massachusetts since the mid-19th century. They now constitute some of the largest Portuguese communities  in the United States.

Chinese Funeral On Harrison Street In Chinatown, Ca. 1890. Courtesy Of The Trustees Of Boston Public Library.


Dating back to the 1870s, Boston’s Chinatown was one of the largest in the country. Despite later exclusion, immigration rebounded after World War II, making the Chinese the largest foreign-born group in the region.

Khachadoor Pilibosian In A Family Photo. He Is Seated On His Mothers Lap. Project SAVE Armenian Photograph Archives, Watertown, MA.


Fleeing ethnic and religious persecution in Ottoman Turkey, Armenians have been coming to greater Boston in large numbers since the 1890s. Watertown, especially, has become a center of Armenian-American life and heritage.

Syrian Immigrants On Hudson Street, Boston 1909. Lace Work Was A Common Occupation Among Syrian Women. Courtesy Of The Trustees Of Boston Public Library.

Syrians, Lebanese and Other Arab Americans

Since the 1880s, Boston has been a popular destination for Christians from Syria and Lebanon. More recently, Arab newcomers have been predominantly Muslim and come from countries across the Middle East and North Africa.

Undated / Globe Staff By Joe Runci / The Haitian Multi-Service Center Dorchester.  Students At The Beginning Level Of E.S.L.  (English As A Second Language).



One of the oldest “new” immigrant groups, Haitians have been coming to Boston since the 1950s. Since then, the metro region has become one of the top three sites of Haitian settlement in the US.

Lunch Time At Banh Mi Be Le, A Vietnamese-owned Shop In Fields Corner, 2015. Jesse Costa/WBUR.


Vietnamese refugees and immigrants have been coming to Boston since the end of the Vietnam war in 1975. Centered in Fields Corner in Dorchester, they are now the second largest Asian ethnic group in the city.


Cape Verdeans

Cape Verdeans have been coming to Massachusetts since the 1840s, but have only moved into the Boston area in large numbers since the 1970s. Today they are one of the city’s top ten immigrant groups and the largest hailing from Africa.

Boston Banda De Paz, A Salvadoran "peace" Band, Marches In East Boston, 2014. Courtesy Of El Planeta.

Central Americans

Fleeing civil wars, violence and repression, newcomers from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras began arriving in greater Boston in the early 1980s. Thirty years later, Central Americans make up a large portion of the region’s Latino population.

Indian-Americans Of Lexington Celebrate The Hindu Festival Of Diwali, 2011. Courtesy Of The Boston Globe.

South Asians

Attracted by higher education and professional opportunities, South Asians have been coming to Boston since the 1960s. Today, Indians are one of the largest foreign-born groups in the metro area.

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Coming originally as agricultural workers in the 1950s and 1960s, Dominicans have become the region’s largest Latino immigrant group and have settled across the metro region.

Brazilian Fans Watching The World Cup Playoffs In The Tropical Cafe In Framingham, 2014. Courtesy Of The Milford Daily News.


Greater Boston has attracted more Brazilian immigrants than any major metropolitan area in the country, in part because of its historic Portuguese-speaking communities.

Boston Caribbean Carnival In 2007. Courtesy Of

West Indians

Immigrants from the English-speaking Caribbean have been settling in Boston since the early twentieth century. Coming mainly from Jamaica and Barbadoes, they have built flourishing communities in Dorchester and Mattapan.

The Mayor Of Don Matías Visits With Don Matíans In East Boston, 2015.


Starting with a trickle of textile workers in the 1970s, thousands of Colombians have settled in Massachusetts in recent decades. The largest number live in Boston, and especially in the neighborhood of East Boston.

Cambodian Refugees Arriving In Khao I Dang Camp In Thailand, 1980. Thousands Of Cambodians Resettled In Greater Boston Over The Next Decade.

Refugees and Asylees

Boston has been a magnet for refugees since its founding in the 1600s. But especially since World War II, hundreds of thousands of those fleeing violence and persecution have resettled in the region, laying the foundations for later immigrant communities.